DESPITE hefty and damning allegations levied against Keita Stephens, his spouse is hell-bent that his human rights ought to be maintained while he sits in a Corporate Area lock-up awaiting his date in court.
Stephens, a day-care operator whom she defends wholeheartedly, faces a jaw-dropping 212-count indictment. He was charged with 57 counts of importing drugs without a licence; 56 counts of distributing drugs without a licence; 33 counts of fees not paid to the Ministry of Health; 17 counts of breaching the Food and Drugs Act; 16 counts of having drugs not registered with the Ministry of Health; 13 counts of dispensing drugs without a licence; nine counts of breaches of the Pharmacy Act; four counts of selling a list of drugs without a prescription; two counts of breaches of the Customs Act; two counts of not being registered as a pharmacist; two counts of [operating] a premises not registered as a pharmacy; and one count of unlawful possession of property.
This is Stephens’ second run-in with the courts, after appearing before Senior Parish Judge Lori-Anne Cole-Montague in August 2022 for sex-based offences. The man, in his early 50s, was arrested and charged following a 2020 incident in which he is alleged to have plied a 13-year-old with liquor and touched her privates before taking her to his house where he allegedly offered her money in exchange for sexual intercourse.
The woman, unmoved, criticised Jamaican police and questioned whether they were equipped with “intangible traits”, during life or training, that would foster basic human dignity.
“I am expecting them to be professionals and act as such. As I clearly remember, on one of my visits when I asked why was my loved one being denied water, I was shouted at by the police, disclosing openly the allegations of my loved one in front of the other visitors. I was shocked. What happened to confidentiality?” the angry spouse told the Jamaica Observer last Wednesday.
“I am an educator for over 25 years; I have served my country for most of my tenure. I have served in education in the United States. I have been an ambassador for Jamaica via the vehicle of education. I have lived with both the elite and those who were, according to our society, the not-so-elite, but I have never been treated the way I have observed how our Jamaican police treat persons,” she went on.
Stephens was charged by investigators following raids of his Kingston 19 premises on July 3, 2022 and July 13, 2022. According to the police, more than 20,000 sexual performance enhancement pills — including Viagra, prescription drugs and female birth control pills — were found.
His loyal woman is insisting that he be treated with care in jail.
“My experience has been ongoing for over a period of months. I trusted my Heavenly Father to take the matter that my loved one has been charged with through our justice system, as I totally expected our able professionals to handle the matter at hand fairly. Hence my shock and dismay when I visited the Kingston lock-up where my loved one is being detained,” the woman said.
She alleged that during her early visits to the lock-up she tried to ask questions, but the police would “try to put me down”.
“I realised how inhumane detainees were being treated when I would go to visit. I would take his food, which was [a] simple snack, and I would be asked not to send in a certain amount of food. I would often explain that my loved one is on medication and is being seen at hospital, as he had a condition which would require him to drink a certain amount of liquid, especially water, daily. I would take five bottles of water and the officer would try to deny me sending him water,” she told the Sunday Observer.
She said she asked why Stephens was not allowed water, and she was informed that only one or two bottles of water would “do for him”. She said this continued even after she took a prescription from his doctor which stated that he is supposed to receive at least five bottles of water for the week.
“He has high blood pressure. He needs to drink a certain amount of water daily, and the officer attending to me at the visit or an onlooking officer would reply, ‘If him never do weh him do then him wouldn’t be in here.’ Who gave them the right to judge him?”
She further complained about the matter of “food search”.
“I have absolutely no problem with the officers searching my loved one’s food. However, some of them can be more respectful. I am cognisant of the fact that this isn’t home; however, health comes first. He is being detained and his provisions don’t come on the nation’s budget. I have never asked for a grant, neither have I asked the Government to subsidise his food and water bill. The officers at the lock-ups are expected to accommodate, not torture,” she told the Sunday Observer.
The woman recalled one experience when she visited the lock-up for Stephens’ birthday with fried fish and was instructed to remove the middle bone. She followed the order.
She added that she had carried a “nice-size fish fillet which I garnished with sweet pepper, onions and carrots” for the accused man.
“It was beautifully presented and plated. The officer attending to my visit didn’t do nothing more than use a fork and rip up the fish in pieces. I was moved to tears. I looked at her and explained that it was his birthday fish. Through clinched teeth and with all the hurt that I was feeling, an officer looking on expressed, ‘She think a party she a go… A jail dis.’ And they all had a good laugh.
“As I go through this experience I have asked myself many times, ‘Where is the regard for human rights?’ These detainees are entitled to food and water. The human body is made up of mostly water, so is it that because you have been locked up that means that you do not deserve water and food? This is torture.”
On the matter of doctor visits, the woman shared an instance when she said officers tried to refuse to take Stephens’ appointment card. She claimed they made several excuses to deny him his doctor visit, stating that there was no approval from his arresting officer.
“I had to seek the permission of the inspector for the station who gave me the go-ahead to take the appointment card to the cell area, and even after informing the officers on duty that the inspector had sent me, they were still trying to deny him his doctor visit. To be honest, the officers try to drive fear into people. Even when we try to interact on a friendly basis, they still remain sceptical.”
She said presently she takes three to four bottles of water for him, and alleged that the officers turn back at least two bottles each week.
“I visited the station personally, and I was asked to ask the hospital to write a formal letter to make his case exceptional. For water? I did as asked and the doctor says the prescription paper was what they wrote on, as it has the hospital’s letter head. I would take my original copy at his visits and his water was still denied. I was told that there was no space in the cell as the detainees had too many bottles.”
She told the Sunday Observer that she was asked to put the water in plastic bags, and she complied.
“Even though I didn’t like it, as the bags might burst before they get to him, I had no choice but to accommodate the officers’ instructions. Now I might be able to send in my loved one’s water. Not a chance. I was now told that I can still only send in two bottles and, again, I am turned back with water,” she said.