Haiti Holds Mass Funerals for Inmates Who Died From Prison Conditions

This is the most horrible story I've read this year, although it's only February. It's inconceivable that such disgusting prison conditions could exist anywhere in the world.

Relatives wailed in grief or stared stoically as flowers were placed on 20 caskets at a mass funeral Tuesday for the latest group of inmates who died miserably in Haiti's largest prison, most without ever having been convicted of any crime.

The BBC has photos of the disgusting squalid cells. [More...]

It was the third funeral service for National Penitentiary inmates organized by Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor Danton Leger since April. It came a day after The Associated Press published an exclusive report on record overcrowding and appalling conditions inside Haiti's biggest lockup.

Recurrent shortages of food and medicine as well as infectious diseases that flourish in packed Haitian prisons and jails have led to an upsurge in malnutrition-related illnesses and other preventable diseases. The large majority of the country's 11,000 inmates haven't been convicted of anything and wait years for a court date.

How bad are the conditions?

Inmates at the National Penitentiary and other lockups are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in cellblocks so overcrowded they have to sleep in makeshift hammocks suspended from the ceiling or squeeze into shared bunks. New arrivals jostle for space on filthy floors where inmates on lockdown 22 hours a day are forced to defecate into plastic bags in the absence of latrines.

What do prison authorities say?

Prison authorities say they try their best to meet inmates’ needs, but receive insufficient funds from the state to buy food and cooking fuel, leading to deadly cases of malnutrition-related ailments such as thiamine deficiency and anemia.

The prison is operating at 454% of capacity. It's the most overcrowded prison system in the world (Phillippines is second, operating at 314% capacity.) The Red Cross says:

"It's a permanent struggle just to keep them (Haitian prisoners) alive,"

The cause (other than Haiti has been the poorest country in the Americas for years, although Venezuela may take that title soon)

®ampant corruption, as judges, prosecutors and lawyers join in creating a market for bribes...Some foreign officials who have seen the system up close are exasperated by a lack of political will to solve problems of corruption, sluggish justice and prison conditions.

There were 21 preventable deaths this month alone. Someone needs to shut the place down and free the inmates -- almost none of whom have been convicted of a crime. Waiting 5 years for trial locked up in a hellhole where you are likely to die before seeing a judge is just unconscionable.

Decent funerals are not an acceptable alternative:

As men continue to die unnecessarily at the National Penitentiary, Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor Danton Leger has been holding mass burials for prisoners, purchasing caskets and flower arrangements. Dead inmates, regardless of whether they were convicted or not, were previously dumped in a potter's field.

"The men in there are forced to live like animals. They can at least be buried like people," Leger told AP.

Haiti has a new President. He's a previously unknown and politically inexperienced banana farmer under investigation for money laundering (no I didn't make that up.) He says the charges are baseless and politically motivated. He had to wait a year to take office due to claims of voter fraud in the election.

The election was a do-over election, scheduled after the original presidential election, held in October of 2015, sparked mass protests alleging fraud. Its results were ultimately nullified.

He is a Trump supporter. Trump sent a delegation of three to his inauguration on Feb 7. including former reality tv contestant Omarosa . How fitting, she was quite possible the most hated Apprentice contestant (calling her a reality "star" is an exaggeration) of all time. ( She was not even on Celebrity Apprentice, just Nobody Apprentice.)

“Haiti is back on the path to democracy,” Jovenel Moïse declared in his inaugural presidential address after taking the oath of office earlier in the day at Parliament before a guest list that included Haitian lawmakers, the vice president of Venezuela and a former reality star representing the Trump administration.

Hundreds protested after his election, calling it an "electoral coup d'etat." He called for protestors to "stand down", claiming he won and no one would change that.

"The country can no longer endure this eternal presidential campaign," he said, adding that for his part — and speaking for his team and members of his party — "we know we won the election in the first round."

He was elected with less than 10 percent of Haiti's 6.1 million voters, in one of the lowest turnout elections in Haiti's history. (There were apparently 26 people running.)

He campaigned on a platform and promising new jobs and expanding Haiti's tourism industry.

He said he foresaw a close personal bond with Trump. Two peas in a pod, if you ask me.

Then there's Guy Phillippe, who won a six year Haiti Senate seat, while being sought by the DEA for drug trafficking. The U.S. extradited him last month after the U.S. unsealed a 12 year old Indictment. He was arrested during an undercover operation just days before he was set to take office, which would have made made him immune from prosecution. While it sounds like a set-up, at least he's in the Miami Detention Center and not the Haitian prison.

Meanwhile, Haiti is spending money on things like campaigns to close brothels and hotels not in compliance with legal requirements.

Government Commissioner Me Danton Léger and Chief of the Port-au-Prince Public Prosecutor's Office, is continuing his campaign to close brothels and hotels that do not comply with the law and that do not respect the conditions and criteria of operation (including possession of a patent and a visible and explicit commercial plaque on the establishment, indicating their activity).

I understand going after child trafficking, which happens to be a huge problem in Haiti, but spending money on licensing issues is absurd, given Haiti's extreme poverty and horrid prison conditions. (50% of Haiti's population is illiterate.)

Commissioner Danton said that once the institutions had complied with the law, the Public Prosecutor's Office could reconsider its decision and lift the seals. On the other hand, he threatens to prosecute all owners who do not comply with the law or refuse to comply.

If Haiti's President Moïse doesn't do something to fix Haiti's disgusting prison conditions, I hope Haiti's Parliament figures out a way to send him there...as an inmate. He should be ashamed that he hasn't done a thing to fix the prison issues in the year and a half since his election, even if he was in electoral limbo.

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  • Display: Sort:
    We've seen those photographs before (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Feb 22, 2017 at 07:59:01 AM EST
    We've seen them all through human history.  I'll spare you the photos from the Russian liberation of Auschwitz.

    Human capacity for inhumanity is unlimited.  The story never changes.  The struggle never ends.

    Years ago I edited a film (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by fishcamp on Wed Feb 22, 2017 at 08:21:57 AM EST
    for some people who were helping the children of Haiti.  The film was difficult to edit for many reasons.  The cameraman was not experienced, and didn't get any establishing, cut away or cut to shots, which are necessary in all films.  Naturally the shots they did get were horrible, with naked children playing in the streets.  The worst shot  showed kids playing in water running down the street from the morgue.  Since they did not get any shots of the morgue itself, I left those ghastly shots out.  The only slightly hopeful shots were of children in a makeshift school.  Overall it was the worst film I have ever worked on.