Jail house blues

Two viral videos of five prisoners brutally beating a fellow prisoner while accusing him of being an homosexual in the Ocho Rios police lock-up last Thursday have sparked fresh debate in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) about who should police jails.

For years senior members of the JCF have argued that the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) should be put in charge of all lock-up and correctional facilities, and the latest incident has seemingly led to a renewal of those calls.

“The police lock-up are overcrowded and difficult for us to manage,” a JCF source complained to the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“The police team on duty at the Ocho Rios lock-up conducted the required check minutes before the incident Thursday night and yet they could face suspension while the matter is investigated. This is unfair and we really want the DCS to take charge of the lock-up,” added the source.

He pointed out that the Ocho Rios police lock-up has eight cells with a gazetted capacity of 24 prisoners but at the time of this incident, there were 34 prisoners in custody at the lockup.

“There is a weekly report indicating the excess prisoner population that exist in the St Ann Police Division has also other issues relating to prisoner management,” the source said, pointing out that this is the same for all the other police divisions across the island.

He noted that there were 121 prisoners in custody across the St Ann Division last week.

“There are seven lockup in the division; the Discovery Bay police lock-up solely houses females, while the Alexandria lockup houses children, hence the issue of overcrowding exists across the other five lockup facilities,” said the source.

According to Observer sources, the beaten inmate, who has been identified as Michael Bolton, alias Steve Johnson, of Brook Green, Ocho Rios, St Ann, and a Trelawny address, was taken into custody on December 22, 2022 and charged with rape, robbery with aggravation, and illegal possession of firearm. He was also wanted by the Trelawny police for rape.

Bolton, a reported career criminal, had been released from prison on parole in 2019, having been given a life sentence in 1998.

Police reported that between 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm last Thursday, an argument developed among the prisoners in the cell and Bolton was assaulted.

During the incident, what appeared to be hot water was thrown on Bolton. It was also observed from a video that what appeared to be droplets of molten plastic were also thrown on him by the inmates.

He was also seen in the video lying face down on the floor of the cell and being kicked all over his body, including his head. Bolton was taken to the St Ann’s Bay Hospital for medical attention in relation to the injuries received during the incident.

The initial assessment of his injuries indicated that he was suffering from fractures to his face. Arrangements were made and he was taken to the Kingston Public Hospital for further assessments before he was taken back to his cell.

The inmates who allegedly carried out the attack were charged on Tuesday with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm and unlawful wounding.

They have been identified as 33-year-old Dejaro Taylor, otherwise called “Dusso” of Steer Town, St Ann; 21-year-old Theoni Flemings, of Islington, St Mary; 32-year-old Dale Douglas, of Colegate, St Ann; 23-year-old Richard Jackson, of Hart Street, Kingston; and 20-year-old Tajar Lynch of Runaway Bay, St Ann.

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) and the Inspectorate and Professional Standards and Oversight Bureau have been engaged for probity and transparency with the investigation.

However, the Observer source said INDECOM has since indicated that it have no interest in this matter.

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