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#5315: Double Jeopardy, Haitians are Jailed in Haiti after Serving , Sentence in the U.S. (fwd)
Haitians Are Jailed in Haiti after Serving Sentence in the U.S.
by Anna Wardenburg-Ferdinand for The Haitian Times
September 20-26, 2000
Port-au-Prince - Frustrated deportees who have been locked up for the last
three months in Haiti's National Penitentiary rioted last week, injuring
several prison guards and the director of the prison, bringing to light a
problem most wish would just go away.
Last June, the United States and Canada began deporting more than 500
Haitians, convicted of crimes, who had finished serving their sentences in
the United States and Canada.
Unsure what to do with the convicted criminal deportees, the Haitian
government has put them in the National Penitentiary and various holding
cells around the capital.
Many of the deportees grew up in the United States and have come back to
Haiti, some without family, some unable to speak Creole.
Tensions reached a breaking point last Sunday in the Penitentiary and
resulted in an all out brawl between police and the prisoners.
Police said inmates from the prison had denied orders to go back to their
"There were more than one hundred detainees that were in the recreation
yard. When the time came for them to return to their cells, these inmates
voluntarily abandoned the movement," Spokesperson for the Haitian National
Police, Jean Dady Simeon explained last week.
"Prison agents informed the director of the prison of the situation.
There were measures taken where the swat team and the intervention corps came
to reestablish order. Simeon said at that time, some of the detainees began
to threaten the guards. In order to control the situation there were several
people that were beaten. Two guards were injured, and Clifford Larose, the
director of APENA (Haiti's national prison system) received a blow from the
detainees," said Simeon.
Initial press reports that four people had died in the prison uprising
were later proved untrue, but prisoners were reported to have been beaten
heavily and gassed by the police.
The director of the prison, who was wearing a bandage on his chin the day
after the incident, refused to comment on the matter.
The incident has highlighted the conditions in which the deportees are
The Minister of Justice was reported as saying in the Nouvelliste that
deportees risked new conviction by Haitian courts if they continued to react
in the same manner. He also announced a program that would soon start to help
absorb the deportees into Haitian society.
By last week, officials from the prison were not ready to speak with the
press, or let journalists in to talk with the prisoners.
Conditions in the National penitentiary are deplorable. With a capacity
of 800, Haiti's National Penitentiary now holds more than 2,000 people.
The majority of prisoners have not seen a judge since their detention,
some as many as two years ago.
There is no potable water for the prisoners and they live in unsanitary
conditions, creating many health problems for the deportees, many of whom
were already suffering from illness in the United States, including AIDS.
One young man who had been deported last year and was suffering from full
blown AIDS was finally flown back to Miami to be treated, but died. That
particular man turned out to be an actual U.S. citizen.
Organizations working with the deportees call their detention illegal.
"This detention is in violation of their human rights and in direct
violation of Haitian and international laws and convenants which states that,
"no one can be prosecuted or punished for a violation for which he was
cleared or condemned," said a complaint to the Haitian government, written by
Michelle Karshan, executive director of Alternative Chance.
Alternative Chance is the only current organization in Haiti that has
taken the initiative to help the deportees assimilate into Haitian culture
without resorting to crime.
Officials have promised to release some of the deportees that are still in
prison but they did not give a date. Some of the deportees and their families
have reported extortion by police in order to get released.
According to these reports some families have paid up to $5,000 to get
their family members out. One deportee, who didn't want to be named, claimed
that he had been asked for up to $30,000.
Micheal Lucias, the police commissioner in charge of tracking the
deportees, says that deportees are not released for money. But he does not
deny that some corrupt police and lawyers are taking advantage of the
"Everyone thinks that these people have money. They profit from the
circumstances, but we explained to the parents not to give anyone any money,"
Lucias admits that the detention of the prisoners is illegal, but in
order to keep track of such a large influx of deportees, and to study their
dossiers, the government is holding the prisoners until a system can be
developed to monitor them.
Deportees being detained in holding cells in various police stations say
the police hold a grudge against the deportees for having gotten out of
Haiti, while they themselves stayed.
"All these guys hold a grudge towards us because they think we were in
what they consider heaven, then we blew it," said Golds F. Voyard, one of the
deportees from New York, of the police.
"This is unjust, they might as well just shoot us. It's like they've
given us a life sentence," he said.
Voyard served a three-year sentence for possesion of Marijuana and
assault with a deadly weapon. He was then brought to an INS detention center
where he spent one year, then deported back to Haiti.
Many of the deportees finish their sentences early and are then deported
back to their home countries.
The deportees have been blamed for much of the insecurity that is taking
hold of the country. Some Haitian officials have blamed the United States
for exporting U.S. trained criminals back into a system that cannot deal with
But Voyard says this is an unfair judgement.
"I sit in here day in and day out as they bring in people arrested for
gang activities. Not one of those people I have seen has been a deportee,"
Voyard and four other deportees have been in the Anti-gang holding cell
since last June. Currently there are twenty other prisoners in the cell.
One of the deportees, Joseph Mondestin, said he had spent 41 years in the
United States, after leaving Haiti when he was only one years old. He grew
up in Maryland, just outside of Washington. He grew up not speaking the
According to Mondestin, he was one out of more than 50 deportees that had
been singled out to go back to the United States upon arrival in Haiti. But
the plane, on its way down the tarmac was halted and he was sent back to join
the other deportees on their way to prison.
Mondestin says he had served six months on drug trafficking charges out of
a five-year sentence, then was released early and sent to the INS. He was
then sent back to Haiti.
The question of what these men will do in a country with an unemployment
rate of over 50 percent already is a tough dilemma.
Lucias says deportees will be released according to their crimes.
Fifteen deportees were released after the prison incident, and more will
continue. Another plane is set to arrive this week.
After their release, deportees are to sign in with the police each week
for at least a year, according to their crime. Lucias says the majority of
the crimes were drug related.
Fears are that the U.S. trained criminals will increase the insecurity.
The only emersion program in existence is unable to do much for the problem.
Some deportees claim U.S. officials told them that there was money given for
such a program, such as helping to pay for housing, but so far have received
Family members who are in Haiti have had to bring food to the prisoners.
Those that don't have family have to rely on others to eat if they are in the
holding cells where police don't provide food.
Alternative Chance, along with some church organizations, have been
helping to feed the deportees that don't have family.
The deportees say they just want the prison nightmare to be over.
"I have completed nearly six years behind these cold walls and cold
steel. I need to be free," said one of the deportees in a letter dated Sept.
"I need to be able to walk the streets free, without the fear that
one-day the police will pick me up and put me in prison again. I need the
agony to be over. Not only for me, but for my family and loved ones," said
the deportee in a letter to whom it a may concern, in which he wished to
He said the police had asked his family for money.
"They have spent too much money for me to just sit there and say or do
anything. Not only is this thing wrong its even worse that my family is
being forced to pay US$ 30,000. Where are they going to find this type of
money? If my family had this type of money in the beginning I don't think I
would have had to make the decision I made to risk my life and sell drugs,"
For more information please contact Alternative Chance at firstname.lastname@example.org
http://www.altchance.homepage.com or telephone in Haiti at 404-1545