Right Steps & Poui Trees


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$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.)

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Making Haste: Joint Select Committee & Special Zones of Operations Act

This afternoon (June 13, 2017), the Joint Select Committee of Parliament considering The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, 2017 had its first sitting. It was a short, preliminary meeting primarily intended to set out how the Committee will proceed.

Delroy Chuck 2Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck is chairing the Committee and reminded that the Bill had been tabled in the House by Prime Minister Holness during his Budget Debate presentation on March 21, 2017. He noted that this Bill is one of the measures intended to deal with the high level of violent crime in the country and made reference to the quadruple murder that had taken place in the parish of Hanover this morning. He indicated that the Prime Minister had asked that the Committee complete its deliberations by the end of June. This means that the Committee has about two weeks in which to conduct its process and report back to Parliament; by the first week in July, at the latest, Minister Chuck said.

The Committee has asked that advertisements be placed in the media this week, inviting individuals and organizations to make written submissions on the Bill to Parliament, with a possible deadline for submission by next week Tuesday.  They will also write to a number of specific organizations inviting them to make submissions; among those mentioned were the Jamaica Bar Association, the Advocates Association, the Public Defender, Jamaicans for Justice, the Norman Manley Law School and the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology. Individuals and organizations which make written submissions may be asked to make presentations in the Chamber, which will need to take place next week or the week after that.

Dates for three meetings of the Committee were set today, though these may change, as sometimes happens:

  • Wednesday, June 21 – 9 a.m.
  • Tuesday, June 27 – 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, June 28 – 2 p.m.

It is hoped that all contributions can be concluded by the end of these three meetings, after which the Committee will do a clause-by-clause review of the Bill before finalising their report to Parliament.

Minster Chuck said that Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte will be attending the meetings of the Committee and the next meeting will begin with the Attorney General giving an outline of the Bill. He also said that the National Security Advisor and representatives of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Defence Force will be invited to attend the meetings.

I am not sure of the full membership of the Joint Select Committee, but present today were MPs Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, Evon Redman and Floyd Green and Senator Pearnel Charles, Jr. Apologies were tendered for MP Peter Bunting and Senators Mark Golding and Ransford Braham. (Marlene Malahoo Forte was present in her capacity as Attorney General, from Minister Chuck’s comments.)

The Committee is attempting to complete its work in a very short period, with very limited notice to the public for submissions, which may jeopardize the “closer scrutiny of the Parliament in a joint select committee” contemplated by the Prime Minister when he tabled the Bill.

Previous blog post in which I raised questions & concerns about the Bill: Yes, You Do Get to Ask Questions About the Zones of Special Operations Act


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

This morning I saw a Gleaner report that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is now actually using body cameras in some divisions.

This seems to follow on from the launch of a pilot project last summer and I wondered if the promised protocol to regulate their use had been completed.sg-tweet-re-jcf-body-cameras-21-2-17

I am very disturbed to now see a press release this afternoon from the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) saying that the JCF has not yet shared with it – the independent oversight body – “the proposed procedures and protocols that will govern the use of the equipment, collection and storage of data, and subsequent viewing of the footage.”indecom-press-release-jcf-body-cameras-21-2-17

The protocol regulating the police use of body cameras will to a great extent determine their usefulness as a tool to support both accountability and crime fighting. This has been clearly seen in other jurisdictions, probably best known in cases in the USA. Regulations regarding when cameras are turned on and off, how data is stored and protected, who has access to the footage and sanctions for failure to comply with the regulations are all extremely important. Also, a particular issue which has arisen in many instances in the USA is that of release of footage to the public. It is not tenable that body cameras are in use, but regulations have not yet been finalised and made public.

The importance of such a protocol has long been acknowledged. In January 2014, then Minister of National Security Peter Bunting  “noted that a protocol will be established, making it mandatory for the officers to engage the cameras once they are going on an operation.” (JIS report, January 24, 2014) Similar assurances were given last year when the body camera launch took place. Perhaps Minister Montague or Acting Commissioner Grant could give a public update regarding the current status of this essential protocol.

Some Related Links

Jamaica Observer: Police finally wearing body cameras-February 21, 2017

JCF: Police Issued with Body Worn Cameras – August 27, 2016

Jamaicans for Justice: JFJ Welcomes Police Body Cameras, Calls for Strong Protocols – August 25, 2016

Jamaica Information Service: Body Cameras for Policemen – January 24, 2014