Human Rights Report laments prison conditions, corruption

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Bribery and corruption are still rampant among staff at Her Majesty’s Prison.
That’s according to the ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA 2017 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT which was prepared by the U.S. Department of State and published this week.
The reports states that the superintendent of prisons, Albert Wade, reported the bribery and corruption in the prison are being committed by guards who are allegedly taking bribes and smuggling contraband to the prisoners.
The banned items being smuggled to the prisoners in the overcrowded jail include liquor, cellular phones, and marijuana.
The human rights review upon which this report is based, covers the period for last year, up to September.
However, our newsroom is aware that the conditions have not changed since then. In recent weeks, the prison superintendent presented a four-page report to the High Court outlining these same issues.
He also reported that a male prison officer was suspended for smuggling contraband into the prison on March 24, this year. He did not specify what type of contraband it was nor the period of the suspension.
But, what are the authorities doing about the situation that has been this way for more than a decade?
The prison remains overcrowded with over 300 inmates though the facility was built for 150 prisoners. But, despite the overcrowding, the prison staff numbers are not going up to ensure there’s adequate supervision. According to the human rights report, the conditions are extreme for both staff and inmates.
The inmates who are on remand have it the worst. Despite not even being tried for their crimes as yet, they are forced to mix with convicts because their cells are severely overcrowded. “There’s extremely poor ventilation causing cell temperatures to remain very high, and hygiene is inadequate,” the report stated. 
The toilet facilities are, according to the report, “inadequate, with slop pails used in all cells except for those of the female prisoners.”
The men’s section has no showers; inmates used buckets to wash themselves.  The women’s section of the prison had two showers; prison staff provided some feminine hygiene products to women, although most female inmates’ families provided for this need.  Conditions in the kitchen were said to be unsanitary, “aggravated by the presence of insects, rodents, and stray cats, to catch rodents.  The yard area also had stray cats and rodents.”
Nearly two years ago the government embarked on a prison expansion and renovation project following another human rights report which harshly criticised the conditions and the fact nothing was being done about it.
But, the project halted due to a lack of finances and conditions only got worse, with outbreaks occurring…there was chicken pox, MRSA and most recently, scabies.
In recent weeks also, the roof of the prison collapsed, and despite a promise by the government to fix it right away, up to this morning, a prison officer reported that it remained the same – crumbling bit by bit, above the heads of those who have to cook and guard the kitchen daily.
See this 2012 link to an investigative report on these issues back in 2012.

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