Friday 14 August, 2020

Samuda declares public defender’s report on detainees ‘nothing new'

Senator Matthew Samuda

Senator Matthew Samuda

Government Senator, Matthew Samuda has dismissed as alarming and conflated the damning report from Public Defender Arlene Harrision-Henry on the state of lock-ups where detainees are being held under the ongoing state of emergency in St James.

Harrison-Henry, in her report to Parliament, painted a picture of appalling and deplorable conditions where persons are being held, sometimes for extended periods.

The public defender’s report highlighted overcrowding, insanitary conditions and poor meals. It noted that detainees were afflicted with rashes and other illnesses.

The report also revealed that the Government was spending only $300 per day to provide detainees with three meals.

The Public Defender, Arlene Harrison-Henry, greets Assistant Commissioner of Police, Donovan Graham, commander of the Area One police network that includes St James, at the official opening of the Western Regional Office of the Public Defender in Montego Bay, St James in January 2018.

However, one day after senior members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in St James dismissed the public defender’s findings as somewhat untrue or exaggerated, Samuda used his contribution to the State of the Nation debate to brush it aside. He said the findings of the public defender had nothing to do with the SOE.

"Regrettably, what the public defender said is nothing new," said Samuda.

“In fact, I am aware that there are reports over a decade ago, not tabled in Parliament but currently in the public defender's office gathering dust, which speak to similar conditions in facilities all across the country," he added.

When Opposition Senator Lambert Brown asked why Justice Minister Delroy Chuck had apologised to detainees, Samuda stuck to his guns, but admitted that conditions in lock-ups generally had to be addressed.

While addressing a function for Justices of the Peace (JPs) in Montego Bay, St James last Wednesday, Chuck acknowledged that conditions under which detainees are being held were, in some instances, appalling.

“We have to apologise to some of these persons who have been detained in unfortunate conditions,” Chuck told the JPs.

“The truth of the matter is that most of our detention centres, our jails, are in awful condition. Those of you who have to visit the police stations and the lock-ups, see that they need improvement,” Chuck stated.

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