The prisoner, identified as Kevin Hospedales, was found hanging in the cell in the South Wing of the Remand Section of the men’s prison shortly after 1.30 pm yesterday. Hospedales, 24, of Pepper Village, Gran Couva, was awaiting trial for the murder of his father in that area in 2011.
Prisons Commissioner Conrad Barrow confirmed the incident but said he could give no details on Hospedales’ death because he was still awaiting a report from his senior officers. Barrow also indicated the prisoner’s family had not yet been informed of the death and, under the prison protocol system, information on the remand prisoner could not be divulged until relatives were informed.
However, Newsday understands Hospedales shared a cell with eight other prisoners who had gone out for airing at around noon yesterday leaving him behind. When they returned at about 1.30 pm they found Hospedales in a standing position. When they asked him to move, he remained motionless. It was then they discovered he was hanging and apparently dead. No alarm was raised by prisoners who were in nearby cells, and the police investigations will include questioning those inmates to find out whether they had seen or heard anything from Hospedales’cell.
The incident raised the issue once again about the installation of CCTV cameras to improve surveillance at the prisons to minimise such occurrences. Prisoners at the Golden Grove institutions also recently threatened to embark on a hunger strike, protesting the slow pace of the judicial system to have their matters determined by the courts.
Police sources told Newsday yesterday at no time were prison officers alerted that Hospedales had threatened to commit suicide, but fellow inmates are reported to have indicated he was becoming depressed. It was only after he was found hanging that inmates revealed Hospedales’ state of mind to prison officials.
The eight other remand prisoners were removed from the cell they occupied with Hospedales to another part of the prison pending further inquiries.
The death of Hospedales caused widespread mourning among prisoners in the Remand Section of the Golden Grove Prison. Yesterday a party of officers from the Northern Division went to the institution along with a District Medical Officer and Hospedales’ body was ordered removed to the Forensic Science Centre, St James.
On August 19, last month another prisoner, Akeem Gill, serving five years for robbery was found hanging from his cell at the Maximum Security Prison also at Golden Grove. Gill had complained about being unfairly targeted by a senior prison officer and said he could no longer face the treatment meted out to him. Gill’s family said the inmate, from Eastern Quarry, Laventille, was not suicidal and they questioned the cause of his death. Gill’s family sought to have an independent inquiry into his death. However, on the basis of the pathologist’s report, authorities concluded Gill had in fact committed suicide.
Last evening, an email sent to Newsday, reportedly on behalf of prisoners, reported another prisoner suicide at the Port-of-Spain Prison yesterday but police sources said there was no other self-inflicted death.
The email also contained a statement detailing prisoners’ distress over delays in their court cases, referring to one matter where a man has been waiting ten years for trial.
The statement includes a nine point list of their grievances:
(1) Proper transportation to and from court.
(2) Persons are not being taken to court.
(3) Proper Legal Aid Representation.
(4) Persons wishing to plead guilty and are unable to do so.
(5) Persons receiving dates without seeing a magistrate or judge.
(6) Retrial cases taking too long to start.
(7) Length of time persons remain on cause list.
(8) Length of time trial takes to start.
(9) Length of time taken to receive indictment.
The statement indicates prisoners want an audience with Justice Minister Emmanuel George, the head of the Legal Aid Board, Director of Public Prosecutions, a representative from the Office of the Chief Justice and the media.
Regarding the hearing of cases, the prisoners lament that they face lengthy delays in the magistrates’ courts, stating “where persons are given twenty eight days adjournments but upon the expiration of the twenty-eight days; those persons are not taken to court which consequently causes the magistrate to set a date for persons in (absentia).
The prisoners said it may be as long as four months before they are taken to the magistrates’ courts, adding the process is quicker when matters go before a judge.
“This situation does not occur in the High Court and if for some reason it does happen, the judge will ensure the person is sent for. Why can’t the magistrates do the same?”
They claim many inmates cannot afford bail or are sometimes denied bail and have been incarcerated for so many years they are prepared to plead guilty “to avoid wasting the court’s time”. “But something as simple as this takes years. Why should this be?”
With the 2015 law term due to open on September 16, the prisoners note that year after year at these ceremonial openings many promises of improving the justice system are made, however, “persons are made to suffer more and more”.