PM says lock-ups up to scratch, but sees room for improvement

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 09, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday toured police lock-ups in Denham Town, Spanish Town and Freeport, Montego Bay — where enhanced security measures are in force — and said he was satisfied that the facilities are up to scratch. However, he acknowledged that there is room for improvement.

“So far we have seen facilities that are, I would say, generally up to standard. But clearly we could and should do more to improve the standards. So the objective of my visit is to see what else we could do to improve conditions,” Holness told reporters at Freeport Police Station in Montego Bay where he made his third stop yesterday.

“One of the reasons we have decided to go on tour of the facilities is to ensure that those who are in custody are being treated appropriately, that we do an inspection of the facilities, and that we review the systems that are used to process them to make sure that their rights are maintained; that they are treated with dignity, and that the systems work to get them out of detention as quickly as possible,” Holness said.

The prime minister congratulated members of the security forces for not abusing the “extraordinary and special powers that they have been given under the state of emergency and the zone of special operations”.

“It is clear that the persons who are held under detention... there have been no reported cases of abuse — certainly I have not come across any. It is also clear that the police have been using the powers in such a way to ensure that they target the persons who are committing the criminal acts, and that those persons who may have been detained but are not a part of a criminal enterprise or are not committing any crime, they are released very quickly,” Holness said.

Senior Superintendent Anthony Morris, the police commander of the St James zone of special operations, said that of the 4,264 persons who have been detained since the state of emergency, only 24 remain in custody.

“A total of 147 of those 4,000 have been charged for various crimes after we detained them, and also some 64 of them were held with outstanding warrants. Overall, as we speak, we have no children detained under the state of emergency. We have in fact two children charged— one for murder and one for robbery with aggravation — and they are at our juvenile facility,” the senior cop told the prime minister.

Morris also noted that the capacity of the lock-up at Freeport is 220 “but we have never been near there”.

“The cells, on average, are now having five to six persons,” he told Prime Minister Holness.

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