Sunday, January 21, 2018

Prison abuse must stop

Judge sends strong message, warns:

 A strong message was sent by a High Court judge yesterday that abuse of persons who are incarcerated is a real thing and it “must not and cannot” be allowed to continue.  

This was stated by Justice Frank Seepersad in his judgement of the case of Shaleem Shazim Mohammed versus the Attorney General.

In that case, Mohammed, who is currently a prisoner at Golden Grove Prison, awaiting trial, alleged that he was severely beaten by a prison officer during an altercation in 2010. 

Mohammed was represented by attorneys Varun Dabideen and Gerald Ramdeen.

In the judgment, Justice Seepersad acknowledged that the question of the physical conditions of persons held at State prisons and the issue of the assault of persons who are incarcerated, have been the subject of discussion both by judges and members of the public in recent  months. 

“It is undeniable and this judgment confirms the position that persons who are incarcerated have and continue to be subjected to assault and battery that are unjustified.  Such a position is unacceptable and the State ought never to be allowed to shield itself from liability by virtue of the fact that persons are incarcerated and do not have the necessary access to legal representation.

“The situation that occurred in this matter, and in many other matters that have been adjudicated upon by the court as it relates to the abuse of persons who are incarcerated, must not and cannot be allowed to continue. 

“There is an urgent need for the revisiting of not only the physical conditions that operate at the prisons, but there is a dire need for the proper training and equipment of persons who are charged with the responsibility of dealing with prisoners on a daily basis. 

“It is the hope of this court that some of the issues I have outlined, as well as the myriad of comments made by my brother and sister judges, would be taken into account and that steps would be taken so as to ensure that the rights of all citizens, whether incarcerated or not, are continuously upheld and there is no arbitrary infringement of these rights consistent with the principles, rights and freedom as outlined in the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,” said Seepersad. 

He then awarded Mohammed $25,000 damages for the incident and $45,000 exemplary damages.

In a claim filed on October 11, 2010, Mohammed alleged that he received severe injuries as a result of assault and battery meted out to him by a prison officer.

Mohammed reported that at about  6.30 p.m. on July 5, 2010, he was in the process of doing his daily duties as an orderly when he was ordered by a prison officer to go into a cell which was not the one assigned to him.

Mohammed, in response, informed the officer that it was the wrong cell, and the officer was said to have retaliated by pushing the prisoner into the cell. 

The officer pulled Mohammed out of the cell and began to choke him.

The officer was then said to have drawn his baton and began to beat Mohammed about the body.

Mohammed received injuries to his mouth, knee, neck and jaw.

He was later treated at the infirmary and then two days later was treated by the prison medical officer.