Woman in witness protection programme feels neglected

April 30, 2021

A woman who is in the witness protection programme is chiding the administrators of the facility for not holding up their end of the bargain by supplying her basic needs so that her safety is not compromised.

The woman, who is in her 50s, said that she is given a measly $30,000 monthly stipend, which she has to travel miles to access. In addition, she said that personnel assigned to the programme have not responded to repeated requests to provide her with cooking gas.

"I call and tell them that my gas is finished from Tuesday, and now it's Thursday and I still don't get any call from them. ... From Tuesday I don't even drink a hot cup of tea and I'm sickly. I can't tell when last I eat something healthy," the woman said.

The witness protection programme is used to shelter persons who are witnesses in cases that are under investigation or before the court. The programme provides security and financial upkeep for persons who then relocate from their communities to areas where they are unlikely to be identified.

The woman with whom THE WEEKEND STAR spoke said that she has no intentions of walking off the programme, which she has been on since 2018, but she lamented its shortcomings.

Having symptoms of COVID

"If I need anything I'm supposed to call them for help, but when I do is bare attitude. Me call them the other day to tell them I'm having symptoms of COVID, and the man on the phone is going to tell me to find a way to go and do a COVID test, and me not supposed to be on the road," she bemoaned.

"The last time me sick and I call to tell them, they said I should find the nearest clinic, and when I was going to the hospital I saw somebody from the community that I was living, and me shock. Jamaica is a small place and me just don't feel safe, and I spoke to them and tell them I don't want to go to the public place because it is very risky, and nothing was done about it. Dem seh a borrow money government a use to take care of me, which I understand, but I didn't call this on myself, and it is not easy for me to be treated like this," she told THE WEEKEND STAR.

The woman said that she has stopped working since going into the programme, and has already exhausted her savings. To make matters worse, she said she has had to break ties with her family members.

"Right now, my mother has cancer and I can't even see her. It pains me so much because life is just not fair to me," she added.

Attempts to get a response from the national security ministry, which runs the programme, were futile up to press time on Thursday. However, the administrators have, in the past, warned persons who choose to be a part of the witness protection programme to be prepared for the long haul as, in most cases, their relocation can be prolonged.

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