As opposed to over 100 prisoners who died of starvation, dehydration and sickness, Nicholson Pierre got to walk out of jail in Haiti recently because militants and attorneys working with the ongoing mass uprising in the country intervened. With hundreds of persons massed in front of the Port-au-Prince parquet, as the prosecutor’s office is known, Pierre was freed by concerned instances who reacted to the mobilization in front of their door. A well known militant who swears by Jean Charles Moise and Pitit Desalin, the party headed the former senator, Pierre aka Bab, usually hangs out in Champs de Mars, part of a group of intractable opponents of the government. These street militants held a memorable battle against the police a few months ago during the “Battle of Champs de Mars, which was chronicled here on Deye Mon.
Unfortunately for hundreds of prisoners packed like sardines in prisons throughout Haiti, they do not get to walk out free. Persons in jail in the National Penitentiary, the prisons in Petit Goave, Arcahaie and other centers in the country are dying of hunger, thirst and otherwise preventable diseases. AIDS and Cholera are rampant in all these jails, and there is little and more than often no medical treatment provided by prison guards who don’t get to eat that well themselves due to low salaries. Persons in the jails suffered because of the unrest that is spreading all over, and also because corruption and neglect keep the authorities from feeding prisoners and providing them with proper drinking water. Imagine being locked in a crowded cell with no food and little water that is unsanitary any way, and no opportunity to bathe or receive basic health care. If life for persons living outside in the ghetto is hell on earth, what can you call this suffering by those persons in jail today?
While some of those prisoners are dying every day, few people seem to care. In Petit Goave in the beginning of the week, some street merchants who sell vegetables and food staples decided to pitch together and feed the persons in the local jail. This is an exception, as in most cases in other prisons in the country, persons go days with no food and no treated water. In the U.S., especially New York and Miami, there is no outcry from the Haitian diaspora. People are going to nightclubs, attending events, and generally living life as if everything back home is ok. In communities with a large population of Ukrainian immigrants there are no parties or celebrations. Everyone there is concerned about war in their country. Well, there is kind of a war in Haiti too, and prisoners are dying in the jails. We should all be clamoring for this information to be reported on the news, and proper attention given to this horrible murder of people incarcerated, with no way to feed themselves. The vast majority of these prisoners, over eighty percent of them, have not seen a judge, or been condemned for a crime. Many are persons arrested after a demonstration in arbitrary fashion, while others are there for petty crimes. Most hardened criminals arrested in Haiti are freed by corrupt judges and police officials. Persons left in jail are the ones that are too poor to buy their freedom. Gangs are taking over whole areas of the country, encircling Port-au-Prince, while mostly innocent persons are arrested.
We need to have a campaign to bring attention to the brothers and sisters who are suffering in crowded jails, which have become death traps. Those men and women do not deserve what is happening to them. Even worse, they do not deserve to die in silence and in incognito because only their family members are aware of this injustice, persons condemned to die without trial. I refuse to post images of these wretched persons, but those images are on social media, and looking at them I wonder about our humanity. Since many of our compatriots are starving while not in jail, for those in jail it’s normal and accepted. Something must be done quickly to help those people, and those of us in the diaspora cannot just sit and watch while doing nothing. Let’s begin by publicizing this ignominious information all over where we live.