La Brigade de Recherche et d’Intervention (BRI), part of the Police National Hatian (PNH) have been tasked to hunt down over 4,000 escaped prisoners from the January 12 earthquake that destroyed the Central Jail in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 16/04/2010.
Thousands of inmates fled after the collapse of Haiti’s main prison following the earthquake.
Officials say Prison Civile de Port-au-Prince had been burned down by the prisoners after the earthquake in an attempt to destroy prison records.
With the capital in such a vulnerable state, there was some concern that escapees may return to areas like Cite Soleil and try and form gangs.
But locals like Eder Philippe said the prisoners had no choice but to escape as the prison came crashing down on them.
SOUNDBITE (Creole) Eder Philippe, Resident of downtown Port-au-Prince: "Those prisoners are people too. If the roof falls down on them, they have to escape. It's up to the authorities to figure out what to do now. And anyway, most of the people in there were wrongly judged anyway. They need justice. I would have done the same as them."
Prisons in Haiti, function as a "preventive detention" for men accused of crimes and waiting for trial. Inmates have to endure dire conditions in overcrowded cells where diseases like tuberculosis and chronic malnutrition are rampant.
The UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) worked with the Haitian government to promote a better justice system and to improve human rights for prisoners.
Danielle Boisvert, the Acting Chief of MINUSTAH’s Corrections Unit, said that more then 80 percent of the inmates that escaped had never been convicted.
Danielle Boisvert, Acting Chief, MINUSTAH Corrections Unit: “There were over 80 percent of the prisoners who have not yet had their day in court and so we can’t establish that they were in fact criminals. What we can say is that amongst them, there were a number of criminals who had been convicted and were serving their sentences.”
According to MINUSTAH, some 5,100 prisoners escaped and so far 36 have been captured in La Cayes and Jacmel. They were not among escapees that had been sentenced. But the mission does not believe that dismantled gangs will regroup.
Danielle Boisvert, Acting Chief, MINUSTAH Corrections Unit: “Whether or not they are rejoining gangs, there were obviously gang members that were in prison so it is quite possible that they are finding themselves in the same neighborhoods at this point.”
United States and UN officials plan on building areas to house the recaptured inmates, most likely outside the capital.
* (Description text comes directly from: www.unmultimedia.org/tv/unifeed/d/14469.html) *