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The weaknesses of the Haitian judicial system exposed by the avalanche of wanted notices against prison vads

  • May 7, 2024
  • 6
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As the dust settles after the mass escape in March that saw more than 4,700 inmates escape from the country’s two largest prisons, the Haitian justice system is responding by launching a series of wanted notices to try to alert the population and capture escaped detainees. However, many of these warrants are flawed because they show the prison system’s mismanagement in maintaining a criminal record and aligning the criminal with their current charges.

Many detainees on the Haitian National Police’s most wanted list have either been transferred to other prisons or released. In addition, the wanted notices published following them describe crimes for which they were not charged. For example, there is a wanted notice against Patrick César, who served part of his sentence in the National Penitentiary, transferred to Petit-Goâve for the rest, then released for more than three years already. The justice system charged him with murder, attempted murder, robbery and gang association, and he was considered armed and dangerous. However, he was convicted for his participation in protests that denounced corruption, bad governance and increasing insecurity in the country.

These flawed wanted posters demonstrate the justice system’s lack of record-keeping and reporting as well as the inaccuracy of information contained in the system’s records and logistics databases. How can individuals who have been transferred or released and who are on escaped prisoner lists and who have different criminal histories be wrongly labeled as murderers or gang members? Let’s ask ourselves if such mismanagement of prisoner records is capturing all of the 4,700 inmates who had escaped or if it is allowing real dangerous criminals to slip through the cracks.

In light of these erroneous arrest warrants which reveal the weakness of the country’s prison system, concerned citizens are calling on the Central Directorate of Judicial Police (DCPG) and the judicial system as a whole to take immediate action. Here are the main demands:

1. Database review : The DCPG must review and update its database to ensure accurate and up-to-date information on all prisoners. This includes details about their release dates, transfers and the crimes they were charged with.

2. Transparency : The justice system must provide clear and transparent information on the status of each detainee. Citizens have the right to know who is incarcerated upon release and why.

3. Responsibility : Those responsible for the erroneous wanted warrants and the mismanagement of prisoner files must be held accountable. This involves investigating how these errors occurred and implementing safeguards to prevent future errors.

4. Training and Resources : Law enforcement officers need proper training and adequate resources to maintain accurate records. Regular audits and checks should be carried out to ensure compliance.

The Haitian justice system must seize this opportunity to remedy its shortcomings and regain public trust. The system exists to protect citizens by preventing escapes and ensuring justice is served. The public is willing to support police in seeking and executing these warrants, but the community has little or no information about which inmates were properly released or who was serving time at the time of these large escapes. Hopefully the authorities will heed this call and take the necessary steps to fix their broken system.

Bobb Rousseau, PhD, KM, FMP

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