Memo from the "Fasting Inmates" group, 25 May 1982
NOTE: The memo below was written to the Commissioner of Prisons on 25 May 1982, stamped by the prison censor and signed by "Fasting Inmates". The document is printed clearly in all capital letters - for ease on the eyes sentence case is used below.
GRENADA PRISON SERVICE
DATED 25th May, 1982
This memorandum is addressed to you as the legally constituted authority in the prison administration and, through you, and your kind offices to any and all who are in authority over you.
It is now more than five months since detainees have unnecessarily been subjected to the cruel and inhuman treatment of being confined to our locked cells. During this period most of us have been allowed to an exercise break of one hour (sometimes less outside the cells on the average of less than ten times per month although the law provides that prisoners in solitary confinement for heinous crimes or special punishment be given one hour each day. And we are not prisoners as such - nor entitled to special punishment. We are political detainees - the majority of whom have not been charged with any offence - who, in civilised societies, are accorded treatment better than convicts. The reverse is true here as persons convicted of murder and other serious crimes are released from their cells daily.
This is to formally notify you that in protest against the inhumane treatment and unsatisfactory conditions which prevail, a number of detainees have commenced abstaining from meals until the following remedies are implemented and only the physical condition of several others prevent them from participating.
- An end to solitary confinement: There must be a return to the normal system of releasing us from our cells daily from morning till evening. This is especially important and urgent as we approach the hottest months of the year. Already the heat is uncomfortably severe, in certain areas, during the day and early evening.
- Improvement in the diet: For example - plain milk water and bread every morning and evening - most times without even the occasional margarine in the bread. The practice of serving an adult at lunch with one or one and one half chicken wings, or a small piece of fish - often mostly along. The meals should be more varied with reasonable servings. Some greens should be introduced and better attention should be paid to the special needs of the many Rastafarians among us as well as the persons with special dietary requirements for medical reasons.
- Better medical care: Because of the insensitive and casual manner in which the visiting doctor deals with complaints, prisoners and detainees generally have little or no confidence in him. Serious complaints are not referred to specialists. Dental care takes very long to be arranged and no fillings are being done. When medication is prescribed it is often supplied spasmodically - with the result that much of the intended result must be lost.
- An end to brutality by soldiers: Whilst this has not been much in evidence lately, we would like to be assured that it will stop completely. Many of the soldiers have ben unduly violent in their manner and quick to threaten with their guns. There have been several instances of soldiers striking or pushing inmates. Contrary to prison rules, inmates have been locked in their cells in handcuffs for long periods. The unwarranted shooting of Winston Crowe [Ras Nang Nang] and the beating of officer Thomas are only the most outstanding examples of this brutality which is usually unprovoked.
- Resumption of visits: This entire compound is under heavily armed security control and excuses are seized upon too frequently to discontinue them. Also visits should not be limited to two per month or fifteen minutes per time.
- Allowance of Fruits, etc.: Fruits are a vital part of the nutritional needs of all human beings. These and other food items which our families were formerly permitted to bring for us were valuable as supplements to the prison diet and should be permitted again.
- More clothing, etc.: Especially in view of the infrequency of visits which obtains now and the limited time and facilities for washing. We should be allowed more clothing etc. than at present.
- Allowance of writing material, etc.: The prohibition against writing, drawing and painting material is unreasonable and unusual in prisons. Lenin, Hitler, Krushchev and a long list of historical and minor prisoners and detainees did very worthwhile writing while imprisoned. And in many prison systems inmates have been known to study and qualify for professions. We cannot write a poem or a prayer without having it taken away from us. Sometimes even material which has already been censored is taken away.
- Allowance of recreational material, etc.: It is excessively cruel and dehumanising especially on top of total confinement - to deprive us of all reading and other recreational material, except for the Bible and other religious tracts. We must be permitted to receive, as before, books, magazines, newspapers, playing cards and other games. The radios taken from us several months ago as well as our watches and other jewellry taken recently should be returned to us. The prison library should be open for more than one hour a day to properly serve the prison population of more than 800 inmates and it should be more accessible to detainees. Some of us are even willing to help in a reorganisation programme which could improve and speed up the service.
- Machinery for release: Many detainees being held for periods ranging from several months to more than three years are being held so unjustly and unnecessarily that they have not even been subjected to questioning. We feel that some satisfactory machinery should be setup - as a matter of urgency - for the processing of detainees.
We urge the immediate examination and implementation of these reasonable remedies in the light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Charter and the International Code of Justice to all of which Grenada is pledged to adhere.
We would like you to afford an early opportunity to discuss these points with a group of us comprising two of those fasting in each landing.
P.S. Since writing the above we are happy to note that visits will be resumed from June 1. We ask early consideration of the points relating to visits and the matter of what our families will be allowed to bring for us and we look forward to the opportunity to discuss the whole memorandum with you and/or Lieutenant [Justin] Roberts who we now understand is principally responsible for detainees.