By EVENS SANON and DÁNICA COTO, Associated Press
At least eight inmates died in an overcrowded prison in Haiti that ran out of food two months ago, an official said, leading to dozens of similar deaths this year as the country’s institutions collapse. .
Ronald Richmond, the city government commissioner, told The Associated Press that starvation and oppressive heat contributed to the deaths of inmates reported this week by the prison in the southwestern city of Les Cay. He said the prison holds 833 inmates.
“Whoever can help should help immediately because the prisoners are in need,” he said.
The United Nations Security Council released a report last week saying that 54 deaths in prisons linked to malnutrition were documented in Haiti between January and April alone in the country of more than 11 million people.
Political cartoons on world leaders
She urged the Haitian government to “take the necessary measures to find a long-term solution to the crisis of prisons, food, water and medicine.”
The country’s severely overcrowded prison system has long struggled to provide food and water for inmates. She blames insufficient government funds and the problem has worsened in recent months, leading to a new rise in acute malnutrition cases and deaths.
By law, prisons in Haiti are required to provide inmates with water and two meals per day, which usually consist of porridge and a bowl of rice with fish or some kind of meat.
In recent months, inmates have had to rely only on friends or family for food and water, and oftentimes unable to visit because gang-related violence renders some areas impassable, said Michelle Karchan, co-founder of the nonprofit Health Organization. Through Walls, which provides health care in Haitian prisons.
The nonprofit joined three other organizations this year to feed nearly 11,000 inmates in Haiti’s 20 prisons for three months, helping at a time when the country was increasingly unstable after the July 7 murder of President Jovenel Moss.
But the situation has since deteriorated.
“These deaths are very painful,” she said. The internal organs begin to fail one by one. …It is horrific to witness. “
Health Through the Walls has launched several programs to target the problem in the long term, including setting up a garden in a prison in northern Haiti that produces spinach and other crops, along with a chicken coop and a fish farm.
“But this is one prison,” Karshan said. “The bottom line is that the prison system has to take responsibility. They can’t sit back. … They are the government.”
Pierre said that Les Cayes and other cities in Haiti’s southern region have also been affected by the upsurge in gang violence that has closed major roads to the Haitian capital, making it extremely difficult to distribute food and other supplies to the rest of the country. Esperance, Executive Director of Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network.
In addition, the water pump on which Lee Kai prison relies has long been damaged, forcing relatives and friends of inmates to carry buckets of water from long distances, Richmond said.
Les Cayes, like neighboring cities, is also still struggling to recover from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck southwest Haiti in August, killing more than 2,200 people and destroying or damaging thousands of buildings.
Richmond said some prison cells were destroyed and not rebuilt, forcing authorities to cram more people into a smaller space.
Cells in Haiti have an occupancy rate of more than 280% of capacity, with 83% of inmates remaining stuck in pre-trial detention which in some cases can last for more than a decade before initial court appearances, according to the United Nations, many prisoners rotate. Sleeping on the floor while others simply stand or try to make hammocks and attach them to the windows of the cells, paying someone to keep their place.
In January 2010, about 400 detainees at Les Cayes prison rioted to protest the deteriorating conditions. Authorities said police killed at least 12 inmates and injured up to 40 others.
Esperance, of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights, blamed the government for the current situation and said officials need to enforce the rule of law.
“The situation is getting worse every day,” he said. “They can only solve the problem for a week or two. After that, the problem will continue. Today, it’s not Kayes. Tomorrow, it could be somewhere else.”
Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.