US State Department report: Prison conditions ‘life-threatening’

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE US State Department has described local prison conditions as “life-threatening” in its latest human rights report, its strongest description of prison conditions in recent times.

“Human rights issues included violence by guards against prisoners and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions,” the US report, released yesterday, said.

As has become usual, the report said conditions at the Department of Correctional Services “failed to meet international standards in some areas and were harsh due to overcrowding, poor nutrition, and inadequate sanitation and ventilation.”

“Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate access to medical care and drinking water remained problems in the men’s maximum security block. Pretrial detainee juveniles were held with adults at the Fox Hill remand centre," the report said.

“The government stated inmates consistently received three meals a day, but some inmates and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) reported inmates received only two meals per day, with a meal sometimes consisting only of bread and tea. Fresh fruit and vegetables were rare to nonexistent. Prisoners also reported infrequent access to drinking water and inability to save potable water due to lack of storage containers for the prisoners.

"Many cells also lacked running water, and in those cells, inmates removed human waste by bucket. Sanitation was a general problem, with cells infested with rats, maggots, and insects. Ventilation was also a general problem. Prisoners in maximum security had access to sanitary facilities only one hour a day and used slop buckets as toilets. Prison inmates complained about the lack of beds and bedding. As a result, inmates developed bedsores from lying on the bare ground. The availability of prescribed pharmaceuticals and access to physician care were sporadic. There was inadequate access to the men’s second floor medical centre for sick inmates or inmates with disabilities. Inmates reportedly used a wheelbarrow to transport inmates unable to walk to the clinic.”

The US said foreign male prisoners frequently reported threats and targeting by prison guards.

“For example, in September a prisoner reported that BDOC officials touched him in a sexually inappropriate manner on the shoulders and chest. The government moved the individual to a different wing of the prison while awaiting the results of an internal investigation,” the US report said.