Prison Comparison #2: Bermuda vs Jamaica

April 10, 2010

Below is a direct comparison of a Bermudian prison and a Jamaican prison, provided by a man who spent time in both. This follows up on our post showing a general overview of prison conditions in Bermuda compared to three overseas prisons.

The Bermuda government had stated on April 6 that they are looking into the feasibility of tranferring prisoners overseas. Premier Dr Ewart Brown said that Minister of Public Safety Colonel David Burch will look into the matter, seeing if it will assist Bermuda with our present issues of rising crime, especially shootings.  Bermuda has a previous history of transferring prisoners overseas, with 1960 being the last time we are aware of it being done.

The gentleman who provided this information was arrested at the Kingston Airport on a drug offence, and was never officially charged, therefore held in a remand jail, not a full penitentiary. From what he understands, the remand prisons are considerably worse then a “real jail“, telling us that he was assured by numerous fellow prisoners this was the case.

Therefore, the comparison we have below is very unscientific, skewed and is only meant as a very general look for interests sake.

The Bermuda prison referenced in this comparison is Westgate circa 2006. The Jamaican prison referenced was circa 1999, located in Kingston.

prison bars grey

Beds

  • Jamaica: Slept on concrete floor, there were a few hard benches on the sides of the cell but only “top guys” got those. No blankets, sheets or pillows provided. “If you were lucky you got a piece of cardboard but there weren’t many of those about
  • Bermuda: Slept on a metal bed attached to wall, with mattress, you got a blanket, 2 sheets, pillow and pillowcase

Rooming

  • Jamaica:In a group cell with around 15 men
  • Bermuda: In a single person cell

Temperature

  • Jamaica: It was very hot and sticky, no vents, fan, a/c
  • Bermuda: In summer it was hot, has ventilation system, no a/c or fans

Toilet Facilities:

  • Jamaica: The “toilet” was a hole in the ground, maybe 5 – 7 feet  deep.  There was no apparent drainage, and he says it was not emptied the whole time he was there. No toilet paper provided, “you had to make do“. Was located in the group cell, had a wooden partition around 4 feet tall around, offered some privacy, though not too much.
  • Bermuda: Proper toilet as found in a regular home, with cover and “comfortable seat“, toilet paper provided, toilet located in your own private cell, so full privacy accorded.

Smell

  • Jamaica: As the “toilet” was a hole in the ground with no drainage, and there was minimal to no shower/laundry facilities – the odor was overpowering, and you “wake up to a stench so strong it pulls you out of your sleep
  • Bermuda: No smell, “smells fresh

Bathing

  • Jamaica: No proper shower or sink, there was one pipe coming out of the wall that sometimes you could use.
  • Bermuda: Could get shower whenever you were out of cell, showers were clean as they were scrubbed daily by prisoners, private shower stalls, 2 in each section [8 in a unit],

Toiletries

  • Jamaica: No personal toiletries at all provided, but there was soap for the group. You could try and get more items: “like use someone else’s toothbrush, or try and get something someone left behind. This guy set me up with a toothbrush, and some guys shared toothpaste with me.”
  • Bermuda: When you come in you got your own set of toiletries, when you ran out you ask the officer for more. Soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, washcloth, lotion, deodorant, shampoo is all provided.

Laundry

  • Jamaica: There is no laundry there, so everyone wore the same clothes the whole time which didn’t get washed. Prisoners smelled.
  • Bermuda: There was a laundry, prisoners wash the clothes with a guard in charge, to get picked you needed to be “cool with the guard, you can’t do good in classes or anything, guard needed to like you

Food

  • Jamaica: Breakfast, lunch and dinner: a type of wrap and a “bag of juice“, food brought to cell and you ate in the group cell.
  • Bermuda: All meals served in cafeteria, prepared by prisoners with guards in charge. Breakfast hot or cold cereal, on Sundays and one day through the week you got eggs and sausages. Lunch: hot dogs, sandwiches, pasta, salad, beans and rice, bread etc. Dinner: “is real food“; chicken, turkey, lamb,  fish, macaroni and cheese, rice, “lots of vegetables“. Sometimes you might get dessert; apple pie, jello, custard, cake, fruit cup etc. For each meal beverage choice is coffee, tea, water, and “different types of drink“.

Insects

  • Jamaica: Lot of insects, when laying on the floor “you had to watch it, as something be up your nose or ear“.  They were mostly cockroaches, and “bugs I didn’t know anything about
  • Bermuda: No real bugs, maybe the odd cockroach, and “you could find a centipede here or there“.

Danger

  • Jamaica: Feels dangerous: “you never know what will happen, lots of tension in there“. He told us that morning was one of the most dangerous times, as everyone carried possessions with them into jail, so nights were the optimal time for theft. If someone woke up and a item of theirs was gone – “you knew there would be trouble“.
  • Bermuda: “No danger really, Bermuda is a safe prison. Always a chance something could happen, but not like guys are going to jump you walking down the landing“.

Extracurricular

  • Jamaica: Dominoes and checkers, to a lesser extent cards. No TV, no radio but you could hear the guards radio sometimes
  • Bermuda: Went to gym, played cards, had a walkman, watch movies in the TV common room – he didn’t have a TV in his cell as “I did’t have enough time. Once to get to E-3 then you are allowed to have a TV,  you need to have like 4 years or more as your sentence”

Outside Extracurricular:

  • Jamaica: Could go outside everyday for about an hour. Watched or played football “with a flat ball”, no gym equipment but exercised “freehand
  • Bermuda: Could go outside 3 times a day: 10:00 – 11:30 am, 1:30 – 3:30pm, and 5:30 – 6:30pm. Played or watched football, cricket, walked around, or went to gym which was a “nice sized gym“, had 2 stationary bikes and weight lifting machines, and a ping pong table.


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Comments (2)

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  1. tired of this says:

    Who on earth really cares…

  2. Barry Davidson says:

    The Jamaica prison situation, as described by a former inmate, is wrong and dangerous to the health of the society. Human beings made mistakes and they are being punished by lock up. That is enough, but to prevent cleanliness, privacy, and proper dietary and health care is setting up precedence to promote an unhealthy society. It is no wonder Jamaicans are so tense and stressed out. Prisoners are human beings and they lived a life before incarceration. Family come and visit and they may leave with microbes to spread. It is unwise not to care for those inmates. Prison is a mental and physical health challenge to any decent human being. I wonder how many Jamaicans out of every three has seen what their country’s prison is like? No wonder unfairness thrive in such places for hundreds of years.