Picture galleries

Access information through image with this series of commented photographs.

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Seyi Rhodes

Investigative journalist

Seyi is a British television presenter and investigative journalist who has worked for the BBC, Five Television, Current TV. From 2008, he has been the in-vision presenter and reporter for Channel 4's Unreported World documentary series. He has given us the photos he took during the shooting of his documentary "Haiti: The Prison from Hell". He agreed to comment on them for us.

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Gallery
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© Seyi Rhodes
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Prisoners trying to get fresh air — © Seyi Rhodes
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© Seyi Rhodes
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No more space — © Seyi Rhodes
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© Seyi Rhodes
Overcrowded cells
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"These people would be locked in the same cell for the vast majority of their day. It is really hard to say exactly how this works but I’m pretty sure that they must be locked in their cell for 10 to 11 hours a day. They have one or two hours outside of the cell." — © Seyi Rhodes
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Inside a crowded prison cell. — © Seyi Rhodes
A man pleads for help
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A man pleads for help. "You can imagine it is kind of chaotic and we had some access issues. We were not always able to engage with people. You know, all the guys who were there were looking at the camera and were pretty much shouting at the same time, trying to tell you something about their conditions or about their case." — © Seyi Rhodes
A crowded prison cell
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“There were two sections of the prison that we went into. There is the main section and then, there is the hospital section. In the main section, there were four or five different blocks, different kind of areas in which there was accommodation for the prisoners. Some were obviously worse than others. This picture is quite typical of the conditions that you experience there. You can see in the background a triple layer: it is a triple bunk bed. The bottom bunk is pretty much on the floor and then there is a little one and one on the very top. It is hard to say how many men would have to share each bed but you know, it could be up to four or five. It really depends on the size of the bed for instance, probably more.” — © Seyi Rhodes
Prisoners in the infirmary
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"The infirmary was near the entrance of the prison. You had to come through the main gates before going through the security section, which was kind of interesting. It did not involve any proper security. It was quite clear that anything could theoretically get through as long as the right person was doing it. Maybe up to 500 prisoners were in the infirmary. I think that there were three rooms that all link into each other, maximum 500 people. They were incredibly tightly-packed." — © Seyi Rhodes
Prisoners crowded into the infirmary
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"Here you can see the guys who sleep underneath the beds and a couple who sleep on top. They were really tightly-packed and there is a small man underneath. They come for diseases, accidents, fights or whatever. They seem to be in the worst conditions because then they are not allowed out at all theoretically." — © Seyi Rhodes
Emaciated figures from the infirmary
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Emaciated figures from the infirmary. "The TB unit and the infirmary are both close to the kitchen. I think things were a little bit more organised in that respect. Most of the really bad, really emaciated figures you see in the infirmary would be people who have become like that over time in the main prison. I don’t say they’re having three meals a day necessarily, but they definitely get food, while there are many people in the prison who don’t eat for various reasons." — © Seyi Rhodes
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Prisoner sleeping under bed. — © Seyi Rhodes
Meal time
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"Meal time. This is the beginning of their one and a half hour roughly of free time. During that time they have to wash themselves and they have to get something to eat. These guys have had their cells opened and they are all pouring out. You can see they have little bowls in their hands. They have plastic forks. They are trying to get their food while they can, they get that into a plastic thing. Then, hopefully, go and have a wash and take the food back to the cell with them, to make the best use of their time. A lot of the time they would have those plastic Tupperware they would have been given by family members on the outside. At one stage, they would have brought food and then they keep hold of it. People bring food from the outside; they may have contacts to arrange for food to be brought to them. So there is that for a start. At the lower levels, some guys were free for a couple of hours and in that time they would have to get some food. They need to make sure they are here when the pots comes out. These very large pots of slop come out and get placed in a central location. They have one period of free time during the day and this is when they can eat. It is one meal a day even though it is supposed to be three. Everybody eats the same food and the meals are always the same. I have never seen any variety. During the weeks I have been visiting, it was always the same slop. I don’t know what’s in it to be honest, some kind of maze powder. I did see vegetables being chopped, so they seem to be boiled before being disintegrated. It seemed to be sweet potatoes but I hadn't always seen it in the food so I don’t know where that went exactly. It is kind of obvious that not everybody could have it." — © Seyi Rhodes
Waiting behind bars
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"There are guys barely wearing any clothes. It is just not comfortable to do so and in that close proximity to each other. Many people are wearing what they were wearing when they got arrested so it is not really practical to hold on or to keep one outfit clean. A lot of time, people would walk around naked or half-naked, because, again, to wash their clothes, they would have to then dry them in the sun. During those two hours they would have to wait like that. I am quite vague on times and it really depends on the kind of prison you are in, who you are, your status inside the prison. There definitely seems to be people who are out most of the day and then there are other guys locked up for 22 hours a day and only having that one period of free time." — © Seyi Rhodes
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Prisoners trying to communicate with each other. — © Seyi Rhodes
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Prisoners playing cards. — © Seyi Rhodes
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© Seyi Rhodes
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© Seyi Rhodes
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© Seyi Rhodes
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© Seyi Rhodes
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Prison cell number b5 — © Seyi Rhodes
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Seyi Rhodes outside the tuberculosis unit. — © Seyi Rhodes
Find in
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I think now it is much more common for people to know and to understand that the prisons are terrible in this country, that they are worse than terrible

"The physical structure there is not capable of dealing with the amount of prisoners they’ve got"

Published on 1 June 2017.

Seyi Rhodes. "I went to Haiti to make this documentary basically. I managed to get permission through a lady called Florence Elie [Human Rights defender, ‘Protector of citizens’]. We suggested her to expose prison conditions. Then she invited us to come and was keen to do it because it was the end of her period in the job. She wanted to show what happened in here.
This is why we went. During the course of the trip, we were there for two weeks. I went to the national penitentiary seven of eight times. It ended up being nearly three weeks because we got stuck because of the hurricane. Then, we went to the old women prison at Petion-ville, which is now closed down so I saw the conditions there, the state it was in. A woman who had been there, who is now released, really brought that to life.

I have to say that the older prison made a lot more sense. More crowded but smaller. It was pretty chaotic but it made more sense in terms of the way things worked out in there. I also went to the brand new women’s prison, built by Americans. It is literally shiny, blue and white. It looks like something out of a movie like Orange is the New Black. Really, it is the same as that. It’s got solar panels on the roof, a huge area of batteries to store all the energy and they filter all the water, it is a kind of self-contained unit.

Looking at it, it was obvious that it was built to stop the prison breaks problem. It is designed to be secure even if the rest of the country is not. That seemed very obvious.

As a facility, it looked really good. The women were not too crowded. It was busy but there was space for them to move around. But it is still a prison, so they are stuck in the cells the whole time. There were lots of different rooms for them to do different activities, which again, stood out, because the older prisons did not have extra space like that.
It is pretty much the same people brought from the old prisons to the new ones, but the facility is better and conditions are better. You can see there is less chance of dying in there.

Access.

It was easy to ask but you had to be careful about to whom you ask your questions and when. It was not easy to film. Again it was all about the access and we couldn’t make anybody look too bad.

We were authorised to engage with prisoners as long as they gave us their permission. That is one of the reasons why prisoners don’t get much attention. It is because it is so difficult to move around in that space, even the prison guards themselves don’t go in very much. You have maybe one or two guys who go with you. They are around but not very near you. It does feel a little bit unsafe at times. They collaborate with the prisoners to make it work. As a result, you get the feeling that there are places in the prison where the guards don’t really go too much.

And now…

I still have contact with BDHH who told me they saw a massive increase of various diseases: cholera and TB among them. There has been a huge outbreak at the beginning of that year. There was an alarming level of weekly deaths. I think the documentary has raised the issue and put a little bit more pressure on everybody involved. There is more talk about the issue.

It seems Haiti has turned a corner in terms of awareness. This was something people did not really talk about, care about or think about. I think now it is much more common for people to know and to understand that the prisons are terrible in this country, that they are worse than terrible and to understand that the justice system does not really work.

These things are now accepted and talked about, understood. This is progress. I think it is much more a concern now, whereas before it was just about putting people away and then forgetting about it.

From my point of view, the men’s prison is completely outdated. It is just not fit for purpose at all. Substantial amounts of money need to be spent in building a new one and it is a horrible thing for Haiti to have to think about, but it just has to happen because the physical structure there is not capable of dealing with the amount of prisoners they’ve got. I believe they‘ve got enough land. The size is there, they could do it, but somehow the issue needs to be raised.

Prisoners need to be moved out. Fundamentally I think food is a major issue and again, it is tough for Haiti to think about people who they’ve locked and need to be fed, a couple of times a day at least. Most of the diseases and problems happen because of proximity and malnourishment. You add stress to people’s situation and it leads to sickness. Cholera spreads easily, as does TB and a lot of skin conditions. The physical facility of the prison being changed and each man having a bed for instance would solve pretty much all of the problems.

You’d still have the pre-trial detention and from that point of view, that would not solve anything but at least, people wouldn’t be dying while waiting for justice. Pre-trial detention is a serious problem. Again, it is just another issue that money needs to be spent on, but if they don’t get the money, they can’t spend it on that.

They need to put their record in order, they need to go digital, the whole court system needs to go digital, it is just not making any sense. The paper system does not make any sense with people who can’t always read in French, earthquakes, hurricanes, whatever…there are countless of possibilities of files to be gone forever. It just leads to this kind of situation. There is also the potential for corruption. All kind of things can go wrong. Since the earthquake, when the courthouse was destroyed, a lot of files were lost. There are people who literally are still there since then and they do not have any file because it was lost. Somebody just needs to pick up those cases, and maybe a department needs to be built.”


Interviewed by Clara Grisot

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