Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti: Jacmel civilian prison rebuilt

International Committee of the Red Cross

Port-au-Prince (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has just finished rebuilding and refurbishing the civilian prison in Jacmel, one of the cities hardest hit by the earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010.

The work carried out in cooperation with Haiti’s prison administration will result in better living conditions for 330 detainees by giving them more room and easier access to water and health care.

“Before the work was carried out, the inmates lived in constant fear of the building collapsing,” said Ruth Merki, the ICRC engineer in charge. “Earthquake-caused cracks appeared in the structure. One of the first things we did was to reinforce the damaged beams and renovate the cells.”

The ICRC subsequently repaired the water system, beginning with the toilets and in the infirmary. Two blocks of sanitary facilities and the prison kitchen were also renovated, and a medical consultation room was built and equipped.

In addition, to remedy the lack of space resulting from prison overcrowding, the ICRC supplied bunk beds for the detainees. “Each bed has three levels and is big enough for at least six people to sleep in,” said Ms Merki. “The result is that cell space is better used, which truly changes everyday life for the inmates.”

The ICRC is not only helping to upgrade facilities. In September, it provided notebooks, pens, books and blackboards for use in teaching illiterate detainees how to read and write. Jacmel civilian prison is one of the places of detention that the ICRC visits regularly to make sure that the people held there are treated humanely.

Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has visited over 5,000 people held in 32 prisons and police stations in Haiti. In order to improve their living conditions, it makes available to the prison administration its expertise in the areas of water, hygiene, sanitation, health and legal protections.

The ICRC has been working since 1994 in Haiti, where its activities complement those of the other components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Since taking part in the relief operation that followed the earthquake of 12 January, the ICRC has been performing the specific tasks entrusted to it to help people deprived of their freedom, victims of urban violence and children separated from their families by the earthquake.

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