Haiti / human rights / prisoners' rights

Canada and Haitian Prisons

An article entitled Canada and the empty prison in the heart of Port-au-Prince, appeared in the Toronto Star on Monday, January 25th.  It discusses the deplorable conditions that existed in Haitian prisons before the earthquake, and that  Ottawa, as the primary partner in the Haitian correctional system, has a responsibility to ensure that those conditions change when the prisons inevitably begin to fill again.

Here is an excerpt.  You can read the article in its entirety by clicking on the link above:

“Haitian prisoners average about half a square metre of space each, one-fifth of the minimum international standard. At the time of my visit, there were nearly 4,000 inmates in a facility the UN deems fit for a maximum of 438, a level of overcrowding the organization’s secretary general describes as “unacceptable.”

One particular image that stuck with me was that of a young man whose ankles were swollen monstrously because he had to sleep standing up at night, lashed to the bars by his belt so he would not fall over. Not because the guards or his cellmates were torturing him, but simply because there was no room to lie down in a cell shared with nearly 50 others, containing only five bunk beds and no toilets. And then there was the smell that stayed in my nose and clung to my clothes. The smell of men living like mistreated animals.

But perhaps even more shocking than the prisoners’ living conditions was an unassuming little blackboard in the penitentiary’s pleasant, air-conditioned, hand-sanitizer-smelling reception room. It displayed the day’s date along with three rows: Total prisoners – 3,824; Convicted – 491; Detained – 3,333.”

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