Prison activist takes fight to High Court

The colonial-era institution has long drawn criticism due to overcrowding and the use of slop buckets among other complaints (File photo)
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By Elesha George

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Prison rights activist Jessica Thompson is planning to file a constitutional motion in the High Court against Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP).

“We are going to file a constitutional motion by the end of this month and it’s against the conditions in the prison,” she told Observer.

Thompson believes that the deplorable conditions at HMP are a breach of the inmates’ constitutional rights. She is hoping that the motion will be another step in securing a new prison facility for the more than 300 inmates at the Coronation Road facility.

Testimonials, pictures, and videos of the conditions at the prison will form part of the submission.

The colonial-era institution – dubbed ‘1735’ in tribute to the year it is said to have been built – has long drawn criticism with overcrowding, poor nutrition and the use of slop pails among the complaints.

“There’s a lot of people outside in society who is willing to do that, [support] and help us with funds to file the constitutional motion,” Thompson said.

After experiencing the penal system first-hand as a pre-trial detainee in 2018, and hearing horror stories from other inmates, Thompson mounted a campaign to force the authorities to address the inhumane conditions at the lone state prison.

The activist has come a long way since she started out as a lone picketer outside the prison and is now helping inmates to file legal documents that they would have otherwise had to pay a lawyer to do.

“I am seeing more tangible results. More people are reaching out to me, even the human rights director in Washington DC; she is onboard with us,” she told Observer.

 “For this year, 2021, I expect a new prison. I expect the officers in the prison to go and get professional training and [that] more activities will happen inside the prison with the inmates,” she declared.

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