Legal Eagle : Are lock-ups a breeding ground for criminals?

July 17, 2017


In 2004, US troops detained Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry and sent him to the notorious prison facilities called Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

He was assigned serial number US9IZ-157911Cl. Detainee bearing serial number US9IZ-157911C1 is now known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the infamous leader of the Islamic State.

The log of several military police personnel revealed a litany of some of the most inhumane treatment inflicted on persons in confinement, including detainees.

The Baghdadi detention episode raises questions as to whether or not the Abu Ghraib and other like facilities have been the breeding ground for dangerous criminals.




In Jamaica, the Constabulary Force Act gives a police constable the power to make an arrest without a warrant if he observes a crime being committed or if he has reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.

The Act also gives the police the power to commit the person arrested to the nearest jail, prison or lock-up.

So the police officer, having made an arrest, has now committed the suspect to the nearest jail, prison or lock-up. The accused man would be searched and processed at the jail, prison or lock-up.

Thereafter, he would be placed in a cell devoid of shoes, belt and other items. Depending on the parish, he would be placed in a cell which is usually overcrowded.

He is given meals consisting of mostly starch and sugar. He sleeps on the cold concrete in a jail often infested with rats and cockroaches and worst of all, in most lock-ups, there is no easy access to toilet facilities.

With respect to visits, most locks-up will permit the accused man to have two visits per week, primarily for the connections of the accused to bring clean clothing and to provide him with refreshments.

Those who are on medication generally have problems accessing their medication on time.

So the accused man is now two weeks in custody. The investigating officer told him that he needs a lawyer to assist him with a video identification parade and thereafter a question-and-answer session.

The accused man is entitled to a legal aid lawyer, but he would prefer the lawyer of his choice. But no one has access to his bank accounts and he needs to retain the lawyer and pay him before he comes to see him.

Fast-forward two weeks. The accused was not pointed out on the parade and was released after four weeks in jail.

Even if the accused were convicted after two years, it would be inhumane to keep him in these conditions.

It is true that the horrible and inhumane conditions at Abu Ghraib are not comparable to conditions in Jamaica, but the impact and effect may just be the same.

It is time for the minister of national security to review the conditions in these jails, lock-ups and prison with a view to dramatically improving them.

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