Haitians are dying of thirst and starvation in severely overcrowded jails - Associated Press

Haitian inmates are thirsty, starving and sleeping standing up because they don’t have enough room to lie down. The United Nations says 185 inmates died in Haiti last year — many of malnutrition-related diseases. This year, more than 20 have died so far. Human rights experts and attorneys expect the number to rise because gang violence has led to severe fuel and food shortages.

More than 80% of Haiti’s more than 11,400 inmates are being held in pre-trial detention. It could be years before they see a judge, if at all, according to human rights experts. Haitian law allows people to be held legally without charge for 48 hours but in Haiti, the law often isn’t followed.

Last year, Haiti’s government released more than 70 inmates convicted of minor offenses after several videos posted on social media showed emaciated prisoners. But such moves are rare and in the meantime, the health of inmates worsens, with some dying before they get to court.

In December, the University of Florida published a study that found that men in Haiti’s prisons were on a starvation-level diet, consuming fewer than 500 calories a day. Researchers studied more than 1,000 inmates at two prisons in Haiti, including the National Penitentiary. They also found that more than 75% were at risk for scurvy and beriberi — a lack of B1 vitamin — and noted that prisoners are not fed during lockdowns.

A U.S. State Department report noted that arbitrary arrests are common in Haiti and that authorities often detain people on unspecified charges.

Haiti’s Ministry of Justice, which oversees the country’s prisons, did not return a message seeking comment.

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Associated Press

Locations: Haiti 

Organizations: United Nations University of Florida National Penitentiary of Haiti United States Department of State Ministry of Justice and Public Security (Haiti) 

Tags: Hunger Thirst Malnutrition Prison Corruption Mass Death 

Type: Headlines