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.