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From Ray.Mitchell@amnesty.org.uk Sun Jun 11 10:29:58 2000
Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 00:38:15 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: AI: Jamaica bulletin
Article: 98023
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
X-UIDL: c32c212091adb64cb9204650bdee8a0c

Electronic distribution authorised

Over 300 prisoners in St Catherine's District Prison, Spanish Town

Amnesty International Urgen Action Bulletin,
AI Index: AMR 38/05/00, 26 May 2000

Further information on UA 101/00 (AMR 38/03/00, 28 April 2000) - Deaths in Prison and new concerns: Fear of Torture/ill-treatment, Medical care, Prison conditions.

Three hundred inmates in St Catherine's District Prison, Spanish Town, have reportedly been severely beaten and at least two inmates are alleged to have been shot. Amnesty International is deeply concerned for their safety.

The attacks apparently began on 21 May and lasted several days. Soldiers and prison wardens reportedly beat the inmates with batons, rifles, baseball bats, irons and electric wire. Inmates suffered fractures to hands, ribs, feet and skulls, and had teeth knocked out.

Injured prisoners were apparently denied medical attention until the Head of Medical Services in the prison publicly condemned the incident. Several inmates are now reported to be in hospital but it is not clear whether all the injured have received medical attention.

Soldiers and wardens have allegedly continued beating and harassing inmates since these attacks were publicised on 25 May.

Reports as to what led to the original mass beating vary. It is believed that a number of inmates barricaded themselves inside their cells and threw the contents of their slop buckets at soldiers and warders searching for contraband items. Tension between prisoners & soldiers is reported to be high after complaints that food was inedible or even withheld. (On 11 March 2000, some 1,100 prisoners at St Catherine's District Prison and Kingston General Penitentiary suffered acute diarrhoea caused by food served in both prisons.) Inmates has also complained about being confined to their cells for extended periods.

During the attacks warders reportedly targeted those inmates known to be supportive of the head of Correctional Services, Colonel John Prescod. Colonel Prescod has reportedly ordered an internal investigation into whether "the force that was used was necessary and appropriate."

Inmates are allegedly also being denied visits from friends and relatives and their mail is being withheld.


Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed its concerns regarding alleged excessive use of force, in some cases appearing to amount to extrajudicial executions; excessive force during cell searches; prison conditions and other ill-treatment in St. Catherine's prison and other prisons in Jamaica. In December 1993, Amnesty International called for an inquiry into deaths and ill-treatment of prisoners in St. Catherine's prison.

Soldiers have been manning the prison since around 800 warders went on unofficial strike in January 2000 in protest against the reappointment of Colonel John Prescod as Head of Corrections. They were later indicted. Their anger stemmed in part from his decision in 1997 to distribute condoms throughout prisons. This led to rioting, in which 17 inmates were killed, allegedly because they were thought to be gay.

Since then Amnesty International has continued to receive reports of ill-treatment in both St. Catherine's and the General Penitentiary, as well as of the failure of guards to protect inmates from inmate-upon-inmate violence, in contravention of international standards.

Conditions in Jamaica's prisons amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and fall well below international minimum standards on prisons. Overcrowding is severe and conditions unsanitary.

The Jamaican constitution guarantees all citizens the right to life, liberty, security of the person; the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life; the right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment.

Supporters of Amnesty International around the world are writing urgent appeals in response to the concerns described above. If you would like to join with them in this action or have any queries about the Urgent Action network or Amnesty International in general, please contact one of the following:

Ray Mitchell, ua@amnesty.org.uk (UK)
Scott Harrison, sharrison@igc.apc.org (USA)
Guido Gabriel, ggabriel@amnesty.cl.sub.de (Germany)
Marilyn McKim, mmckim@amnesty.ca (Canada)
ua@aibf.be (Belgium)
Anne Nolan, ua@amnesty.iol.ie (Ireland)