Prison overcrowding: Haiti world record holder in terms of space per inmate

By Michelson Césaire, Le Nouvelliste, Jan. 15, 2024 

Haiti is overflowing with prisoners in low-capacity prisons. The occupancy level based on Haiti's official capacity is 454.4%, according to the latest "World Prison Brief" ranking analyzing data from 207 countries. Space per inmate is just under 0.5 square meters in Haiti, far from the international standard of 4.5 square meters. The country's total prison population (including remanded prisoners) is 11,253.

Haiti, second in the ranking, is far ahead of the Dominican Republic, with a rate of 163.4%. Only the Republic of Congo surpasses Haiti with a rate of 616.9%. According to World Prison Brief figures, Haiti has 17 prisons. The official capacity of the prison system is 2,431 m2.

In this distressing situation, 2.3% of the total number of inmates are minors and young prisoners under the age of 18. The percentage of female prisoners is 3.6%.

Remanded prisoners account for 81.9% of the prison population.

According to the World Prison Brief, the countries with the lowest overcrowding rates are Mexico (107%) and Chile (91%).

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Haiti leads the way, well ahead of Guatemala (293%), Bolivia (264%), El Salvador (237%) and Brazil (174%).

The top five in the world ranking are defined as follows:  Republic of Congo: 616.9%; Haiti: 454.4%; Uganda: 367.4%; Philippines 363 and Cambodia 345.9%.

The "World Prison Brief" took the opportunity to point out that overcrowding can increase tensions and outbreaks of violence between inmates, leading to the spread of disease and difficult access to basic services and health care.

The World Prison Brief is an online database offering free access to information on prison systems worldwide. It is a unique resource that supports the development of evidence-based prison policies and practices worldwide. Involving collaboration with research partners, civil society organizations, and policymakers. The program aims to inform and promote debate and policy reform through international comparative research projects, publications, and civil society engagement.

The report published in June 2021 by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights documents detention conditions and the treatment of detainees in Haiti. These UN bodies have called for the urgent implementation of solutions to address the problems associated with detention conditions, as well as the situation of the high number of people in pre-trial detention.

The report states that, in some cases, up to 60 people are crammed into spaces of barely 20 square meters, without the possibility of lying down to sleep. Some cells have no windows, leaving inmates in the dark for hours; the absence of latrines forces prisoners to relieve themselves in buckets. What's more, prisoners are often kept in their cells for up to twenty-four hours, either for lack of exercise classes or as a security measure.


Translated by CHIP editors


Posted Jan. 20, 2023