Haiti Quake Opens Window on Dismal Prisons

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MSNBC– The skinny teenager appears nervous, and with reason: He is waiting for a tap on the shoulder that could send him back to the dismal prison where he spent four years without being charged or seeing a judge.

He is one of more than 5,000 prisoners who fled their cells after January’s devastating earthquake and are now being rounded up by Haitian police and returned to a system notorious for appalling conditions and delays.

Legal experts say the earthquake has given the country a chance to reform its judiciary, which has been the source of international condemnation for years. But the young man on the run, who insists he is innocent, is afraid any solution will come too late for him.

“I’d like to be able to go to them and just say, ‘You were wrong, let me be free,'” said the 19-year-old, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of his legal situation. “But I’m scared that they’ll just lock me up again.”

Justice Minister Paul Denis acknowledged that the justice system is guilty of “extremely serious” human rights violations and agreed the problem is particularly bad for juveniles. Authorities will seek to speed up the process in the future, he added, though no one has yet offered a formal plan for rebuilding the judiciary.

Continue reading about Haiti’s Dismal Prisons.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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