Convicts in prison seek release during COVID-19 crisis

Miami lawyer Philip Reizenstein explains the challenges federal prison inmates have in trying to get out of prison to avoid catching the coronavirus behind bars. 

By Philip Reizenstein | Pierre Taylor

With COVID-19 infections spiking in Haiti, where fevers are quickly spreading inside the country’s overcrowded prisons, hundreds of inmates risk dying of the novel coronavirus, the government’s chief ombudsman says.

And so far, the government doesn’t seem inclined to do anything about it.

“They are turning a deaf ear,” said Renan Hédouville, director of the national Office for the Protection of Citizens.

Haiti has confirmed 1,174 cases of COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the virus, and 33 deaths so far. Of the confirmed infections, 11 are inmates at the hellish National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, the director of the prison system confirmed to the Miami Herald.

Hédouville and other human rights watchers, however, believe the number of infections are far greater given the overcrowded, inadequate infrastructure and irregular supply of food and essential medication to meet basic inmates’ needs. Inhumane conditions inside the teeming prison and provincial jails mean 20, 40, even 80 prisoners are often crammed shoulder-to-shoulder inside poorly ventilated, filthy cells that defy acceptable international norms of 14.8 feet of prison area per person. Continue reading

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