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Minors, girls and prisoners from National Penitentiary forced into shared detention

  • June 5, 2024
  • 10 Min
  • 16
minors,-girls-and-prisoners-from-national-penitentiary-forced-into-shared-detention

The risk of sexual violence in these conditions is heightened, where hardened criminals, sometimes already convicted cohabit with children and people on extended pre-trial detention, according to two prisoners’ rights organizations

Read this article in French

The Reintegration Center for Minors in Conflict with the Law (CERMICOL) was built to accommodate up to 100 detained children.

Today, CERMICOL is overwhelmed with 337 prisoners, including men, women and children, according to a human rights organization interviewed by AyiboPost.

At least 70 prisoners previously incarcerated at the national penitentiary are now crammed into two small rooms intended for training minors at CERMICOL, according to an internal source at the largest prison center in the country, abandoned after being emptied of its occupants by bandits on March 2, 2024.

The Reintegration Center for Minors in Conflict with the Law (CERMICOL) was built to accommodate up to 100 detained children.

Inmates from the Carbaret women’s civil prison have also been at CERMICOL for almost two years, following an armed attack in September 2022.

Read also: Exclusive | What really happened at the Haitian National Penitentiary?

According to a penitentiary official, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter, CERMICOL’s infrastructure is not strong enough to withstand possible pressure from inmates trying to escape.

Overcrowding at the juvenile center is preventing officials from admitting new detainees, including those from the Port-au-Prince Prosecutor’s Office, the official said.

“On several occasions, we have refused to receive new prisoners, because we are out of space,” declares the source, adding that he is not aware of any action by the Prison Administration Directorate (DAP) to relocate the prisoners to a more appropriate facility.

Overcrowding at the juvenile center is preventing officials from admitting new detainees, including those from the Port-au-Prince Prosecutor’s Office.

Located in Delmas 33, at present, CERMICOL is the only operational detention center in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince following the escape of 3,800 inmates from the national penitentiary and hundreds of others who were at the Croix-des-Bouquets prison, also stormed by bandits at the beginning of March 2024.

According to two prisoners’ rights organizations, the risk of sexual violence in this mixed detention environment is heightened, where hardened criminals, sometimes already convicted, live with children and people in prolonged pre-trial detention.

There are insufficient sanitary blocks and showers based on the number of inmates. Hygienic conditions for women are concerning, according to witnesses.

Read also: Abandoned children in Haitian prisons

Based on the latest figures collected by the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), CERMICOL houses 149 women and 1 girl, 90 boys and 97 men.

Legally, juvenile and adult detention facilities have different functions.

“A minor who contravenes the law does not go to prison but must be placed in a very specific environment,” explains Samuel Madistin, lawyer and manager at the Je Klere Foundation.

On several occasions we have refused to accept new prisoners because we are out of space.

According to Maître Madistin, referring to the law of September 7, 1961 and that of July 16, 1952, the minor is to be placed in a public, supervised, corrective educational institution, where they are to receive a moral, civic and vocational education.

CERMICOL is unable to fulfill this function today.

“Spaces dedicated to activities for minors are becoming increasingly rare at CERMICOL,” reveals Jude Chery, President of the Association of Volunteers for the Reintegration of Prisoners in Haiti (Avred-Haïti).

Since 2019, this professional has supported young detainees in learning various manual trades such as plastic recycling, macramé and chemical manufacturing.

There are no longer any play spaces, training activities can no longer take place, and school and academic programs intended for young people have been interrupted.

“Of the nine classes available, only two are currently in operation, namely the eighth and ninth year classes ——,” specifies Chery, noting a noisy working environment and limited logistical resources.

There are no longer any play spaces, training activities can no longer take place, and school and academic programs intended for young people have been interrupted.

Experts warn of an increased risk of contagious diseases, intellectual regression among minors, as well as psychological problems such as depression, as well as stress and anxiety linked to their inappropriate detention.

According to the RNDDH, of the 251 minors in detention in Haiti, only nine have been sentenced, or 97% in prolonged preventive detention. This situation also concerns the majority of the Haitian prison population.

Pasner, 20, detained for 3 years at CERMICOL for armed robbery, has not appeared before a judge. Roméo, 19, detained since February 2020, is also awaiting trial. They fear for their educational future and ask to be tried and possibly released.

This problem is not unique to Port-au-Prince; it also affects the civil prison of Les Cayes. Among the 869 detainees, the BDHH listed 31 minor boys and 3 minor girls. Jacques Letang, lawyer and legal supervisor at BDHH, points out that many minors live with adults in similar detention conditions.

Experts warn of an increased risk of contagious diseases, intellectual regression among minors, and psychological problems such as depression, as well as stress and anxiety linked to their inappropriate detention.

“The State must act!” insists Madistin. “The authorities must make detention centers functional to prevent potentially dangerous detainees from being accommodated in centers intended for minors,” concludes the human rights defender.

By Lucnise Duquereste & Rolph Louis Young

Cover image published by AyiboPost illustrating the current situation of the Center for the Reintegration of Minors in Conflict with the Law (CERMICOL).


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Lucnise Duquereste