CMC- Amid allegations of abuse of prisoners in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) on Thursday called on Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds to allow for independent monitoring of prisons to verify the treatment of inmates and their conditions

“We hope the honourable Minister will accept our offer of service in an effort to respect the human rights and dignity of those he has been entrusted to care for,” it said in a statement.

The CCHR said it continues to be deeply concerned about the alleged inhumane conditions in the prisons, the persistent allegations of abuse of prisoners by prison officers and the lack of any monitoring system to ensure that prisoners’ living conditions meet the minimum human rights standards.

“The conditions in remand, in particular, are horrific and the state should hang its head in shame,” it claimed. “It should be noted that these are also the conditions that prison officers are forced to work in and would no doubt fail any health and safety inspection.”

Urging an end to such conditions, the CCHR quoted Nelson Mandela who said “the way…a society treats its prisoners is one of the sharpest reflections of its character….We will not find lasting solutions if we continue to treat our prisoners in the old way, denying them their dignity and their rights as humans.”

The group said that reports of the conditions in remand and other places of detention in the twin-island republic had been shared with international human rights bodies who were shocked and horrified at the conditions.

It pointed out that other independent bodies had not been allowed to conduct monitoring visits to assess the living conditions of prisoners, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is no way to independently verify the claims of the prisons authorities with respect to the treatment of prisoners. Also concerning is that the Inspector of Prisons position has been vacant for about three years,” it added.

“Convicted persons are sent to prisons as punishment, not for punishment. Prisoners are entitled to their basic human rights such as freedom from torture, freedom from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, the right to health, the right to decent living conditions and the right to adequate nutrition.

“Given that Trinidad and Tobago is experiencing the highest levels of COVID-19 cases and deaths since the start of the pandemic, the conditions in the prisons should be of tremendous concern to the public and a top priority in the state’s COVID response. Prisons do not operate in isolation and are a breeding ground for diseases,” it added.