Right Steps & Poui Trees


Jamaica’s Body-Worn Cameras: A Comfort to a Fool?

At some point you have to hear when actions speak louder than words. You have to acknowledge that the promises have turned out to be just that…promises. Declarations, clothed in good intentions perhaps, but with no real substance to them in the end. This certainly looks like the case with the use of body-worn cameras by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). These cameras seem to be a comfort to a fool.

Across at least two administrations and three police commissioners so far, there have been commitments to the use of body-worn cameras by the police. This has been promised as a tool to help with increasing accountability, transparency, professionalism, public trust in the JCF and as a counter to possible false accusations against the police. There have been press conferences, press releases, official launches, pilot projects and media stories about these body-worn cameras. The use of body-worn cameras has been included in legislation and the JCF (finally) produced in November last year policy and procedures regarding the cameras.

Yesterday the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) held a press conference about its 4th Quarterly Report for 2017, which was recently tabled in Parliament. Part Three of the report included a brief update regarding body-worn cameras (p.45).

INDECOM 4th Q report 2017 - body cameras iINDECOM 4th Q report 2017 - body cameras vINDECOM 4th Q report 2017 - body cameras viINDECOM 4th Q report 2017 - body cameras iv

To date, after all the fanfare, promises and hype, the JCF’s body-worn cameras have not resulted in one piece of footage of any incident that requires further action, not from a planned operation, not from a planned, stationary vehicle check point, not from a random incident, not from any camera deployed anywhere. So where are these body cameras being deployed, if not in circumstances where there is most likelihood of encounters which could result in injury or loss of life?

In some jurisdictions, the discussion about the usefulness of body cameras centres around whether the footage captures all of an encounter; whether the camera is deliberately turned on or off; whether footage should be released to the public and, if so, when; whether the cameras have significant impact on the behaviour of police or the public; whether the cameras actually reduce incidents of police abuse or other such issues. Here, however, we are wondering whether body cameras are actually being deployed and, if so, what is being captured on the body cameras.

“What we are saying is that the Commissioner of Police ought to, since we are putting public attention on it, ought to cause the Force to operate in a way where, when there is a planned operation, that at least one member of that operation who is going to be involved in the activities is wearing a body-worn camera. We think that it gives a false sense of accountability to say, “Oh, yes, we have body-worn cameras,” if you do not deploy them in the areas where they are most needed. And a Force which has questions surrounding its use of force needs to as much as possible put them on all officers who are likely to be involved in use of force incidents.” – Terrence Williams, INDECOM Commissioner, press conference, March 13, 2018

Major General Antony Anderson - JISThe new Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson, begins work next week, on March 19. From day one he will have a long list of issues needing his attention. Somewhere on that list should be a review of the deployment of this potentially useful tactical tool, which is currently being deployed in a manner that successfully avoids capturing anything of any significance.




Asma Jahangir, Renowned Human Rights Defender, Dies: Her Visit To & Report On Jamaica In 2003

Asma JahangirI was saddened to learn on Sunday of the sudden death of Asma Jahangir, the remarkable Pakistani lawyer and human rights advocate, who died of a heart attack at the age of 66. Ms Jahangir was a courageous human rights defender, who had great impact within her own country, as well as internationally in a number of capacities and on a number of issues.

A United Nations release titled “World loses a ‘human rights giant,’ says UN chief on death of rights expert Asma Jahangir” spoke about her work and included comments from the Secretary General’s statement on Sunday:

“We have lost a human rights giant,” said Mr. Guterres in a statement.

“Asma was brilliant, deeply principled, courageous and kind […] She will not be forgotten,” he added, expressing his condolences to Ms. Jahangir’s family, friends and colleagues, including in the UN and civil society.

I had the privilege of meeting Ms Jahangir when she visited Jamaica in 2003, for a country visit in her capacity of then United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. I sat with a number of clients of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) – family members of people who had been killed by the police – as they individually told her about the death of their loved ones. At times I helped with translation, when Ms Jahangir wasn’t clear what was being said in patois.

I was struck by the sensitivity, compassion and respect shown towards the family members by Ms Jahangir during her interviews, as they recounted their experiences, often in traumatic detail. Hers was an attitude that was often not shown to them by local officials, as they navigated the long and frustrating search for justice for their relatives.

On the last day of her visit, February 27, 2003, Ms Jahangir held a press conference at the Ministry of Justice to give some initial remarks regarding her observations. Asma Jahangir - Gleaner 28-2-2003 pA1

The Gleaner report of the press conference included the following:

A United Nations-led independent assessment of reports of human rights violations in Jamaica has determined that extrajudicial killings are still rampant with not enough policemen being punished for their actions.

Asma Jahangir, the UN Commission on Human Rights’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, yesterday told a press conference at the Ministry of Justice, Oxford Road, New Kingston, after her 10-day mission to the island, that many of the reports she received during her research indicated excessive use of force and targeted killings of individuals which could amount to extrajudicial killings and executions.

“In a number of cases there are strong indications that these reports might be accurate,” Ms. Jahangir said.

“There is a strong belief among the disadvantaged that the police and security forces abuse them with impunity. I’ve often heard the term uptown and downtown
justice being used to describe the notion that two different standards of justice were being applied. Another disturbing element of these reports was the allegations of the apparent lack of interest on the part of the Government in recognising this problem.”

She expressed concern that influential pressure groups justified the excessive use of force as a legitimate measure to fight crime; at the deep anguish expressed by the families of those killed by the police and the frustration of witnesses; that a number of people interviewed showed their reluctance in testifying to such killings as they were afraid of reprisals and had little confidence in the criminal legal system; and that she had received reports of threats by the police against families of the deceased.

Ms. Jahangir, however, had high commendations for the Government’s efforts, and expressed high hopes for change if the conclusions and recommendations from her pending report are considered.

She welcomed the fact that in the last few years the resource allocation to the Police
Public Complaints Authority(PPCA) had been enhanced and that several steps had been taken to further develop the training of police and the security forces, to strengthen community policing and to establish the Police Service Commission.

“Almost everybody I met confirmed that there is an official recognition that despite the high levels of crime, it is crucial to ensure that the police and security forces act in accordance with the law,” she said. “ However, I regret that the public discourse centres on the issue of crime without sufficiently recognising that rough and easy justice only adds to more crime and bitter crime.”

Ms. Jahangir’s mission was prompted by reports of killings of civilians by the police and security forces and included meetings with representatives of the Jamaica Constabulary’s Bureau of Special Investigations, the PPCA,  the Jamaica Constabulary’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, and Jamaicans for Justice.

She is now mandated to recommend further constructive measures that the Government can take in addressing the challenges they are facing.

“ I’m not satisfied, of course, otherwise I would not be here,” she said. “There have been convictions of 136 policemen (between 1990 and 2001) on complaints of abuses
but not on extrajudicial killings. I believe the number is very, very low when it comes to this, it is possibly just a couple…”

She said that she was impressed with the openness of Government leaders and ordinary citizenry in expressing their concerns.

Gleaner, February 28, 2003, pp A1 & A6

Later that year, Ms Jahangir’s report was delivered and included references to the wide range of individuals and organizations she met with. It outlined the context of her visit and detailed the concerns that arose from her observations. A number of individual cases were described: Janice Allen and her family, Richard Williams, Michael Gayle, Basil Brown, Patrick Genius, the persons killed and injured in West Kingston in July 2001 and the Braeton 7.  The report ended with a list of conclusions and recommendations. Nearly fifteen years later, it is worth reading to note both what changes have taken place and what remains more or less the same.

Special Rapporteur Jamaica report 2003

UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions report – Mission to Jamaica 2003

This quote from Asma Jahangir, included in a Democracy Now segment remembering her, is an inspiring and good place to end:

“When you start off, there’s something inside you telling you to do it. And it comes because you have a heart and an eye and the courage to stand up against those forces—and there are plenty of them, believe me—that do not wish to see people free. Human rights, it’s not a job, it’s a conviction. I have used the law as an instrument, and I’ve used the courts, but I have been on the streets, as well. I’ve been in protest marches. I have been to prison. I’ve been under house arrest. So, for each issue and for each incident, there has to be a thought-out strategy. Justice is a rare commodity in our part of the world. Very rare. But sometimes even shouting for justice gives you some satisfaction that you’re being heard. And you must be heard. You knock, and you knock, and you knock, and you knock, and you knock, and one day they are going to hear.”

(I was Chairperson of human rights organization Jamaicans for Justice in 2003, when Ms Jahangir visited. I remain a member of the organization. My blog posts are all done in my personal capacity, however.)


JCF Body-Worn Cameras Policy & Procedures: An Access to Information Request Granted

In September 2017, I made an Access to Information (ATI) request for

“copies of any protocols, procedures, guidelines, etc governing the use of body-worn cameras by members of the JCF. I am interested in copies of any such documents that are currently in force or have been used at any time in the past.”

I initially submitted the request to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) directly and it was subsequently transferred to the Ministry of National Security, which is where I am told it ought to have been submitted in the first place. After much back and forth and delay, and with the assistance of the ATI Unit, today I received a copy of the JCF’s Policy & Procedures on Body-Worn Cameras. The cover of the document indicates that it was developed in November 2017 & disseminated as an Appendix to the JCF Force Orders No. 3675, dated November 9, 2017. (These dates may indicate in part the reason for the delay in response to my ATI request made in September 2017.)JCF Body Cameras Policy & Procedures coverClick here to access a copy of the document: JCF Policy & Procedures on Body-Worn Cameras Nov 2017

I have had a chance to do only a quick read through the document, which does not seem to be  sufficiently detailed and specific on first reading. There also seem to be a number of gaps, with some significant issues left unaddressed. I’ll obviously consider it more closely when I read through it again, but in the meantime, what do you think? I have repeatedly said, “If the public doesn’t know what the protocols and procedures are, how can we know if they are adequate?” So here they are. Are they adequate?

Two other questions:

Related blog posts

INDECOM Reports 8 Fatal Shootings in the Past Week: Any Body Worn Camera-Footage?

Body-Worn Cameras: A Secret Transparency Tool?

No Protocols, No Body-Worn Cameras: INDECOM’s Comments

350 Words or Less: Police Using Body-Cameras, But What Protocol Is Regulating Their Use



A New Commissioner. A New Force?

COP QualloLast year January the Police Service Commission (PSC) was in the process of “seeking to identify a suitably qualified candidate either from within or outside the Jamaica Constabulary Force to fill the post of Commissioner of Police as soon as possible.” Less than a year after the new Commissioner of Police was appointed, the PSC is again in that process, as Commissioner George Quallo is set to demit office this week.

In a blog post on January 3, 2017, Advertising for Police Commissioner & Other Public Posts, I shared the advertisement for Commissioner of Police placed in the newspapers on January 1 that year and raised some concerns about the advertising and selection process, concerns which I continue to have.

I think that the advertisement posted is seriously lacking in one regard. It does not set out in any specificity the qualifications and experience required of applicants for the post of Commissioner of Police. What level of experience in law enforcement is required? Must experience be within policing or will experience in some other context be considered, for example the military, correctional services or private security? Is there a minimum number of years of experience necessary for consideration? What level of supervisory/managerial experience is required? What are the preferred and minimum educational requirements for the post? These are a few of the requirements that could reasonably be expected to be specified in such an advertisement. It would also be useful to know if the PSC is advertising the post outside of Jamaica, regionally or further afield.

I have long thought that this is an approach that should be taken routinely when advertising vacant public posts, not just for the current vacancy for Commissioner of Police. It gives the public a clearer idea of the criteria considered important for successful fulfilment of the job. It also gives the public a basis for evaluating how well the candidate eventually appointed meets the required qualifications and experience for the post. This would support the increased move towards transparency and accountability required in modern approaches to good governance. It is not too late for the PSC to adopt this approach, and perhaps it is time for this to become routine and required when advertising  vacancies for public posts in Jamaica.

As Commissioner Quallo leaves office and as the selection process for the new Commissioner takes place, the public has no specific idea of what qualifications and experience the PSC is looking for in a “suitably qualified candidate”, beyond “strong managerial experience”. The public has no idea how well the outgoing Commissioner fit the PSC’s criteria and will have no idea how well the new Commissioner selected fits those criteria, unless the PSC decides to be more forthcoming this time round.

As would be expected, there are discussions in the traditional and social media about what people would want to see in a new Commissioner. One thread of discussion is that the new Commissioner should be someone capable of leading a process of reform/change/transformation in the police force. As Professor Anthony Clayton said in a discussion on the Nationwide News programme Nationwide @ Five yesterday, “So we are not looking for a continuity candidate; we are looking for a change candidate.”

But the question arises: Change to what? It has long been known that there is a need for fundamental reform of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and over many years there have been reviews and reports giving recommendations for such reform. The 2008 Strategic Review of the JCF report detailed many such recommendations itself, and in its Appendix E provided a useful review of the recommendations of a number of previous reports. If we are expecting the new Commissioner of Police to lead reform of the JCF, it would be good if there were a clear, accepted, official outline of what that reform would look like and would entail.JCF Strategic Review Appendix E

JCF_2008 Strategic_Review_Appendices

Montague 23-1-18In Parliament last week (January 23, 2018), Minister of National Security Robert Montague gave an update on “a number of issues pertaining to National Security”; this was in the context of the State of Public Emergency declared for the parish of St James the previous week. In a section of his presentation titled Legislative changes, Minister Montague reiterated the Government’s intention to :replace the current Act governing the JCF:

Sir, we intend to table within 6 months a Police Service Act which will replace the
150 year old Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Act which will be subsequently
repealed. The goal is to break with the past and create a modern Police Service
befitting our times and to better protect the members and serve the public.

This is another important opportunity for reform of the JCF, but the proposed new legislation cannot simply be the old legislation subjected to some level of tinkering. It needs to be reflective of a fundamentally different approach to policing. It is also necessary that there is adequate time allotted for review of and consultation on the draft legislation by members of the public. If this is to be legislation creating a modern Police Service, then it must undergo such a process of consultation with the people the new Police Service is to serve.

Over decades, we have come time and again to the point of  stating that reform of the police force is a necessary part of being able to deal with the high level of violent crime that has long plagued Jamaica. Perhaps one day there will actually be the political and societal will to undertake the necessary reform.



INDECOM Commissioner Addresses the Issue of INDECOM & Police Effectiveness

Terrence WilliamsLast night – January 11, 2018, in an address to the Kiwanis Club of Spanish Town, Commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Terrence Williams spoke about the often repeated claim that the work of INDECOM has had a chilling effect on police morale and has reduced their ability to perform their crime reduction functions effectively. Variations of this claim have been made by a number of people and organizations, including the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet, members of the Opposition when they formed the Government, members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), including representatives of the Police Federation, which represents the rank and file members of the Force.

Below is the text of Commissioner Williams’ speech, entitled “INDECOM and Police Effectiveness: A Statistical Analysis”, as well as a PDF copy – Jan 11 2018 – Kiwanis Club of Spanish Town – INDECOM & Police Effectiveness

          Address by Terrence Williams Commissioner, INDECOM
                           at the Kiwanis Club of Spanish Town
                                         January 11, 2018
     Title: INDECOM and Police Effectiveness: A Statistical Analysis

I am sure you have often heard the claim that INDECOM has reduced police effectiveness causing an increase in crime. Some even say that the first step to reduce crime is to end INDECOM as we know it. These claims are dismissed by many as unfounded and illogical, but the effort to convince by repetition continues relentlessly. Of course there are some who may argue that the police must have a “free hand” and advocate that our national problem will be resolved if the police can act free of regulation and oversight. Those who peddle these arguments are then faced with this question: “Are you saying that the police cannot be effective if they are to be accountable for their actions?”

This evening a different approach will be taken in a reply, based purely on objective
statistics. Has the advent of INDECOM been coincidental with an increase in murder?
INDECOM speech Table 1 p2
Recall that INDECOM started its full operations in April 2011. Table 1, shows a general decline in murders since 2011. The average annual rate for 2004 to 2010 is 1554 murders per year whilst from 2011 to 2017 it is 1226. Thus there were, on average, 300 less murder victims since the introduction of INDECOM. It is also useful to further contextualize these figures against the population of Jamaica and in so doing let us turn our attention to the murder rate per 100,000 persons for the period stated above. The average murders per 100,000 for the pre-INDECOM period was 57.90 compared to 45.86 per 100,000 persons during the INDECOM period.

Similarly, the JCF statistics also reveal that the number of police officers killed has
significantly declined since the inauguration of INDECOM. All murders are deplorable but the killing of a police officer is particularly so given the fact that we depend on these brave men and women to preserve our social order.

On these facts, the claims that INDECOM’s existence contributes to the rise in crime in Jamaica and that the police need a “free hand” to fight crime is not supported. The search for causes and solutions for our endemic crime problem must therefore be sought elsewhere.

If we are looking at reasons for our high murder rates, we should consider the period after the year 2000 with consistently more than 1000 per year; and note the conditions that continue to prevail namely, the failure to effectively address organized crime.

If we are seeking solutions we should further look at the post 2010 period when murders were reduced by almost 40%. Professor Anthony Clayton, continues to point out that “this significant reduction in such a short time was seen almost nowhere else in the world before” and that “Jamaica did not follow through with the measures necessary to solve the crime problem and so we have returned to where we started”. It is submitted that the needed “follow through” was to get to the root of organized criminal gangs and to fully institute community policing.

Nicaragua, can provide some examples of how to sustainably reduce crime. Nicaragua’s neighbours, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, all suffer from high per capita murder rates. Honduras and El Salvador are amongst the highest in the world at 86 and 70 murders per 100,000 respectively. In 2015, Nicaragua’s murder rate was 7 per 100, 000 persons. Remarkably, Nicaragua maintains this low murder rate although, there is free movement of people in the region and so criminals can easily cross borders to commit crimes; despite being poorer than its neighbours, and having the lowest ratio of police to the population.

Nicaragua engaged in significant police reform to root out corruption. The model of
policing is a preventative and proactive one rooted in the heart of the community. Strong intelligence networks are employed especially in areas where organized crime is prevalent. Nicaragua recognized that repressive policing only achieves short term results. Jamaica can certainly learn from the Nicaraguan proactive community based policing model, because it is inclusive and instills a sense of confidence in the police service, one supported by a strong accountable and professional policing framework.

Another argument too often heard is that the police are less responsive to criminal activities because their morale is adversely affected by INDECOM’s investigation and charges. However, since inception only a small percentage of investigations have ended in charges. Further in 2014, the year of the greatest number of charges laid by INDECOM, also saw the lowest number of murders (1005) for 11 years. Notably, as seen in Table 2, where murders and police fatal shootings are considered together, the general tendency of an increase in fatal shootings when murders increase, continued after INDECOM started operations.

INDECOM speech Table 2
Consider Table 2 again. You may note three things. First, that, for a generation, we have had high rates of police involved killings but that these killings have declined since INDECOM started its operations. Secondly, there was a 16.25% decline in murders between 2013 and 2014 and in the same year a reduction in police fatal shootings by 55%. Thirdly, that the consistent high rates of police involved killings seem to have had no lasting effect on the murder rate.

The Ministry of National Security’s 2008 JCF Strategic Review: A New Era in Policing in Jamaica found that the JCF had weak internal accountability and was hobbled by endemic unlawful cultures. It is unfortunate that this Review is not more often consulted. It was the product of an august panel assembled by the State towards finding ways to improve the JCF. The Review is freely available online. I invite you to read it. Please pay particular attention to the “corrupt practices that have become endemic” frankly outlined on page 26. In the face of such unlawfulness how could the JCF be effective?

The Review called for “concerted, long term and coordinated effort” by the JCF and its oversight bodies to tackle the malignant cultures in the police force. INDECOM is playing its part in this very effort, yet naysayers continue to claim that this endeavor is stymying the work of the police. The JCF’s cultures rendered it ineffective to control crime and instead contributed to crime. These cultures could not have taken root unless they benefitted a group of persons and that group remains loathe to see the change that will relieve them of such improper advantage.

A disciplined police force cannot operate contrary to the law and in a state where some of its members are in continuous disaffection. Resisting and scapegoating the oversight mechanisms will only delay the needed change and distract from the real causes of crime.

The advent of INDECOM and the overall reform of the JCF to promote accountability,
ought to result in a sustainable reduction in crime. But, a resistant JCF retards such

There is nothing to suggest that the work of INDECOM has caused an increase in crime. An accountable police force is an effective police force.

Related Document

In his presentation, Commissioner Williams referred to the 2008 JCF Strategic Review. For convenience, here are copies of that document and its appendices:

JCF Strategic Review cover


JCF Strategic Review Appendices







INDECOM Reports 8 Police Fatal Shootings in the Past Week: Any Body-Worn Camera Footage?

INDECOM logo 2In two press releases this week, the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) reported on eight people having been killed in the past seven days by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). In one of those incidents, members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) were also involved.

The first release was issued on Monday:INDECOM Nov 6 2017 release aINDECOM Nov 6 2017 release b

The second release was issued today:INDECOM Nov 9 2017 release

The incidents took place in 5 different parishes: Kingston, St Catherine, Clarendon, St Mary and St James. As it investigates the incidents, INDECOM is asking anyone who may have witnessed or may have information about any of the fatal shootings to contact the organization.

One question I would ask is if any of the police involved in any of the fatal shooting incidents was wearing a body-worn camera and if there is any footage of the incidents. This would be particularly relevant to the incident in Salt Spring in St James, as that is reported as having ocurred during a planned police operation carried out by Mobile Reserve.

Terrence WilliamsAt a press conference on September 27, 2017, INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams spoke to the potential usefulness of body-worn cameras, saying:

“…most of the police shootings that you have in Jamaica have no witnesses but the police. So most of them will have no resolution but the police version, which may be true or it may be false. The body-worn camera provides that…an assistance in that accountability. And we were arguing from day one that why not use the body-worn cameras on those planned operations. So that you know you are going into a confrontation-type situation, it’s a very good time to wear the camera. So that your version of events can be depicted in this way of real evidence. We’re not seeing that at all. And we’ve had no update on it.”

He also made the startling statement:

“…in none of the shooting events that we have under investigation, including planned operations, were any body-worn cameras worn by the officers involved.”

COP QualloI think Commissioner of Police George Quallo needs to say whether the announced JCF body-worn camera programme is in operation or has been abandoned outside of the Zones of Special Operations.


$75 Million Allocated To Retrofit Police Lock-Ups For Children: So What Happened?

Parliament - gordon-house-2In 2013, the Jamaican Parliament was told that $75 million was to be spent retrofitting five police lock-ups with “child friendly” areas for the detention of children. In 2017, a Parliamentary Committee has now been told that the retrofitting of four lock-ups was completed in 2015 and that the areas were handed over to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). The Committee was also told, however, that the retrofitting was so poorly done that the “child friendly” lock-ups have never been used and that it will take an additional $32 million for recommended repairs to be done, $17 million of which has already been allocated in the 2017 – 18 budget.

At its last two meetings, Parliament’s Internal and External Affairs Committee has discussed this much-touted government programme for retrofitting police lock-ups with “child friendly” areas. The information shared in those meetings raises serious questions about the implementation of the programme and the money spent on what some, myself included, thought to be an ill-conceived idea when it was originally proposed.

On September 19, 2017, the Committee  had a meeting, which Opposition MP Peter Bunting chaired, and discussed a Ministry of National Security (MNS) report titled Status of Retrofitted Children’s Detention Facilities Island Wide – June 30 2017. Committee members expressed dissatisfaction with the report and raised concerns about some of its contents. They decided to ask MNS representatives to attend the Committee’s next meeting to provide further information and to answer questions that had arisen.

Fitz Jackson MP

MP Fitz Jackson


On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, the Committee met again, this time with Opposition MP Fitz Jackson as Chair; having recently been appointed Opposition Shadow Minister of National Security, he has taken over from MP Bunting as Committee Chairman. The delegation from the MNS and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JFC) that appeared before the Committee was led by Mrs Mitsy Beaumont-Daley, Acting Chief Technical Director at the MNS, and Commissioner of Police George Quallo. The MNS submitted an updated report titled Report – Physical Condition of Retrofitted Children’s Detention Facilities Islandwide – October 5 2017 to the Committee. This was accompanied by a report of inspections made of the four relevant police lock-ups on September 26 & 27, 2017 and a collection of photographs showing the physical condition of the facilities.

Background to Decision to Retrofit Lock-Ups

The October 5, 2017 MNS report gives the background to the decision to retrofit these four police lock-ups:

“An Inter-Ministerial Working Group was established in September 2012 by the then Ministry of Youth and Culture. The primary purpose of the Working Group was to examine the issues and challenges that affect children within the care of the State.

A significant focus of the Committee was to provide a solution for the separation of juveniles who come in conflict with the law from adults in police lock-ups. In this regard a programme was developed to establish self-contained child friendly holding units to accommodate such children. Thirteen (13) units were to be established in strategic locations across the fourteen parishes with Kingston and St. Andrew operating as one facility. The Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) was identified as the source of funding and the facilities were constructed by the National Works Agency (NWA).

The plan was to retrofit/construct the units in phases. Four (4) were to be completed in the first phase namely Bridgeport in St. Catherine, Barrett Town in St. James, Moneague in St. Ann and Nain in St. Elizabeth. By 2015 all facilities were handed over to the Jamaica Constabulary Force, except for Nain.” p. 1

Indeed, then Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna reported on the retrofitting programme in her Sectoral Debate presentation in 2013:Hanna Sectoral presentation 2013 28Hanna Sectoral presentation 2013 29

And again in 2014:

Hanna Sectoral presentation 2014 p12Hanna Sectoral presentation 2014 p13

The October 5, 2017 MNS report points out that the programme completely failed to deliver what had been promised:

“Following the handing over of the facilities, a walk through was conducted which revealed that the buildings were not as safe and secure as they appeared. Several defects were observed that were described as “potential” safety hazards as well as unfinished works.

Discussions were held with the contractors (NWA and JEEP) who gave assurance that the matters would be addressed in short order. However, as at September 27, 2017, only one station (Bridgeport) toilet facility was reconfigured, the others have not been addressed and the newly constructed structures were left to deteriorate.”

One has to ask, as did some of the members of the Committee, what level of consultation took place regarding the design of these facilities? What monitoring took place while the work was being done? And what accountability has there been regarding the poor quality of the completed work, at and since the point of handover?

Identified Problems at Retrofitted Lock-Ups

The MNS October 2017 report outlines the problems that they identified with the rerofitted facilities:MNS lock-up retrofitting report Oct 2017 - flaws aMNS lock-up retrofitting report Oct 2017 - flaws b

Looking at just one of the issues of concern, items (iii) and (iv) deal with the basic and important issue of proper ventilation. In the MNS June 30, 2017 report, three of the four facilities are identified as having a problem with ventilation and some very stark language is used to describe the problem.

Barrett Town: “9. The ventilation for the cells is very poor and could lead to suffocation.”

Moneague: “5. The ventilation for the cells is very poor and could lead to suffocation if the windy climate at Moneague should cease.”

Nain: “The facility is not suitable for habitation due to very poor ventilation.”

The September 2017 MNS inspection report uses less dramatic language in describing the ventilation problem and the associated recommendations, but the problem remains as a concern:MNS Oct 2017 - lock up inspection report aMNS Oct 2017 - lock up inspection report b

The provided photographs give a visual indication of the situation being described:MNS police lock ups photos - Oct 2017 report The MNS October 2017report speaks of the facilities being “constructed from a prototype plan”. What did this plan require regarding ventilation? Who was consulted in designing this plan? What standards were used as a guideline for developing this plan?

And if it is said that the prototype plan was adequate, is it that the work done varied from the plan? If so, wasn’t this noticed while the work was being done? And again, why has there been no accountability for the poor work done? Why is it that the facilities remained unused and deteriorating, after so much money was spent?

What Next?

At the end of the Committee meeting on October 10, MP Jackson said that the scope of the investigation into the use of public funds for this retrofitting went beyond the mandate of the Internal and External Affairs Committee. He said that the Committee would complete its report to Parliament on the matter and that further investigation would need to be done by the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) and/or the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

This is a matter that demands explanation and accountability, at the stages of planning, implementation and sign off. With all that is needed for children who come into conflict with the law, with the often heard excuse of lack of resources, we owe it to them to demand that the Parliament does its part in achieving full accountability.

In this post, I have focussed on the expenditure and the facilities, but there remains the substantive problem of children being held in police lock-ups. The situation has changed somewhat in the past few years, but there is still a need for the government to present a more careful analysis of data to identify the causes of the problem and whether this is the best solution.

If $75 million has already been spent and an additional $32 million is to be spent, is the end result after spending $107 million really going to be the best solution for the children involved?

The Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament

Many of us may not be familiar with the mandate of Parliament’s Internal and External Affairs Committee and may wonder why this matter came before it. The Standing Orders of Parliament gives a description of the Committee’s role, which makes this clearer:Internal and External Committee

(From Standing Orders of the House of Representatives of Jamaica 1964 )

The current members of this Committee are:

Members of Parliament: Mr Fitz Jackson (Chair), Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, Mr Dave Brown, Mr Leslie Campbell, Mr Heroy Clarke, Mr Horace Dalley, Mr Colin Fagan, Mr Floyd Green, Mr Alando Terrelong and Mr Franklin Witter.

(As a member and representative of human rights organization Jamaicans for Justice, I worked on this issue when it first arose. I remain a member of the organization. My blog posts are all done in my personal capacity, however.)