Prison hunger strike ends

The five-day hunger strike at the Gold­en Grove Prison was called off yes­ter­day af­ter prison of­fi­cials met with the in­mates to dis­cuss de­plorable prison con­di­tions, lengthy de­lays in court cas­es and lim­it­ed re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive pro­grammes.

In a record­ing sent to Guardian Me­dia, in­mates were heard vent­ing about the con­di­tions. One asked why they con­tin­ued to be housed in a prison and not a cor­rec­tion­al fa­cil­i­ty.

“This is slav­ery in full ef­fect. The peo­ple locked up are peo­ple with chil­dren. We fed up, moth­ers can­not see about their chil­dren. They de­pend­ing on the gang to grow up their chil­dren. We are say­ing give us a speedy tri­al. Con­vict them, let them plead and make their time,” the fe­male in­mate said.

She added that scores of peo­ple on Re­mand are wait­ing for years for their tri­als to start.

“If you are on re­mand you are in­no­cent un­til proven guilty. How long will those on re­mand stay in here? Peo­ple are there for ten years and 15 years. It is not right. At the end of this, most times many of them walk free. They serv­ing a life sen­tence with­out be­ing sen­tenced,” she said.

An­oth­er pris­on­er com­plained that al­though mil­lions of dol­lars are spent on na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty every year noth­ing is be­ing done to re­ha­bil­i­tate pris­on­ers dur­ing their in­car­cer­a­tion.

An in­mate who has been be­hind bars for al­most four years said: “They are not car­ry­ing us to court. The court not start­ing our cas­es, peo­ple want to plead guilty but they can’t. Con­di­tions here are very poor. There are rats and some­times flies in the food. There are no week­end air­ings, pi­geons in­fest the place and a lot of in­mates al­ready served their time. Some of us have to sleep on the cold con­crete.”

Since last Tues­day, in­mates at Di­vi­sion B in the West Wing of the Gold­en Grove Prison have been re­fus­ing their di­et to bring at­ten­tion to de­plorable con­di­tions at the fa­cil­i­ty. The hunger strike spread to oth­er ar­eas in the prison and by Thurs­day, two in­mates had re­port­ed­ly col­lapsed from mal­nu­tri­tion. Oth­ers com­plained of dizzi­ness, lethar­gy and weak­ness.

Prison Com­mis­sion­er Ger­ard Wil­son told Guardian Me­dia he had a du­ty of care for prison of­fi­cers as well as in­mates. He ad­mit­ted that there is on­ly a min­i­mum of pro­grammes avail­able to in­mates on re­mand and ex­plained that pro­grammes are struc­tured for peo­ple who are in jail for a long pe­ri­od. He said pris­on­ers on re­mand could end up get­ting bail or leav­ing the prison while the pro­grammes are on­go­ing.

Wil­son said some re­mand­ed in­mates have been do­ing pro­grammes in the Voc-tech build­ing and a new plan is be­ing drawn up propos­ing that pro­grammes be in­tro­duced for re­mand pris­on­ers and tied in with their sen­tence.

He said he in­tend­ed to lob­by for the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of all re­mand­ed in­mates and will write to the Min­is­ter of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty on that is­sue.