Police federation expects better conditions at lock-ups

EGREGIOUS — that was the word used by the Jamaica Police Federation to describe the conditions of some police lock-ups across the country.

The federation also noted that several facilities were brought to the attention of Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson, and there is an expectation that there will be improvements to uphold delivery of service and human rights.

“We are duty-bound to ensure that, at all times, the issue of human rights is upheld. There needs to be a fast-tracking of the rehabilitation of many of these lock-ups, and we have identified them and we have brought them to notice. Even as late as last week I had reason to bring to the attention of our commissioner a few lock-ups that are of great concern,” Corporal Rohan James, chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation, told the Jamaica Observer.

“…Even some that have been recently renovated and are still having issues [have been brought to attention] so it is something that we have taken a keen interest in, and we will continue to clamour for the Government to remedy these situations,” he continued.

Last year the federation said the poor state of lock-ups across the island was affecting the health of some cops, and stressed that it was important for funding to be made available to remedy the situation at those facilities.

James said there is also a need to remove detainees from some lock-ups so as to alleviate the shortage of resources and the strain put on commanding officers.

His comments follow a Sunday Observer exposé on the conditions of lock-ups at the Denham Town and Hunt’s Bay police stations in the West Kingston and St Andrew South police divisions, respectively.

Two weeks ago four men who were held at the facilities shared similar tales, lamenting that they had no toilets, stoop over holes to defecate, and stand in faeces when showering. Several attorneys also lamented the conditions, and Peter Figueroa, professor of public health and epidemiology at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, warned of potential faecal-oral diseases that could be a threat to their health.

James also pointed to the structure of police lock-ups and underscored the potential for lapses in security.

“Many of them [structures] are deteriorating and making it conducive for a jailbreak at any material time. As I speak, there are a few that require urgent attention, and since it is that I have spoken to the commissioner about it, it is only fair enough that I give him an opportunity to remedy the situation,” James told the Sunday Observer.

“I don’t want to say that we continue to harness administrative negligence but I just want to ensure that those who are accountable do what they have to do to enable us to offer services to the people of Jamaica. When we put persons in custody who have committed acts against our people we need to ensure that they are safeguarded so that our society can be at peace.”

Asked to comment on some of the issues that are in need of attention, James told the Sunday Observer that, “It is a wide range of concerns that we have identified.

“There needs to be some remedial action taken, and I believe the time has come where lock-up facilities — given the fact that we are speaking about human rights violations and for us to uphold human rights — must now be equipped with interviewing areas for attorneys so that we can mitigate against prisoners escaping,” James argued.

“The time has come for us to be more proactive than reactive. We can also use technology to enhance the issue of safeguarding these facilities, as I don’t believe we are making the most of it — and that is where we need to go.”