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The only detention center in P-au-P service no longer has space

  • June 3, 2024
  • 10 Min
  • 9
the-only-detention-center-in-p-au-p-service-no-longer-has-space

The Center for the Reintegration of Minors in Conflict with the Law, which was built to house up to a hundred child prisoners, is overwhelmed with 337 prisoners, including men, women and children of both sexes

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

Today, CERMICOL is overwhelmed with 337 prisoners, including men, women and children of both sexes, according to a human rights organization that spoke to AyiboPost.

At least 70 prisoners previously incarcerated in national penitentiary are now crammed into two small rooms at CERMICOL intended for the training of minors, 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 a hundred 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 national penitentiary?

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

Promiscuity within the juvenile center prevents officials from welcoming new detainees, including those from the Port-au-Prince Prosecutor’s Office, underlines the official.

“On several occasions, we have refused to receive new prisoners, because we no longer have 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 space.

Promiscuity within the juvenile center prevents officials from welcoming new detainees, including those from the Port-au-Prince Prosecutor’s Office.

Located in Delmas 33, CERMICOL today represents the only operational detention center in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince following the escape of 3,800 inmates at the national penitentiary and hundreds of others who were at the prison of Croix-des-Bouquets, 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 increased, where hardened criminals sometimes already convicted live together with children and people in prolonged pretrial detention.

There are insufficient sanitary blocks and shower rooms compared to the number of prisoners. Hygienic conditions for women are worrying, according to witnesses.

Read also: Children abandoned in prison in Haiti

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

Legally, the functions of juvenile and adult detention facilities are different.

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

On several occasions we have refused to accept new prisoners because we no longer have space.

According to Maître Madistin, referring to the law of September 7, 1961 and that of July 16, 1952, it is planned to place the minor in a public, supervised and corrective education institution, where he must receive moral, civic and professional education. .

CERMICOL cannot fulfill this function today.

“Spaces dedicated to the activities of 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 inmates in learning various manual trades such as plastic recycling, macramé and chemical product manufacturing.

There are no longer any play spaces, training activities can no longer be held, and school and academic programs intended for young people are interrupted.

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

There are no longer any play spaces, training activities can no longer be held, and school and academic programs intended for young people are interrupted.

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

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

Pasner, 20, detained for three years at CERMICOL for armed robbery, did not appear before his 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 specific 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 cohabit with adults in similar detention conditions.

Experts warn of an increased risk of contagious diseases, intellectual regression among minors, as well as psychological problems such as depression, 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.

Par Lucnise Duquereste et 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