Prison guards in Haiti trained in techniques

Haiti’s understaffed prison services will benefit from nearly 300 new recruits, thanks to a United Nations-backed training program covering all elements needed for the job, from psychological understanding to respect for prisoners’ rights to knowing when to use force.

“The urgency was there,” Renald Jean René, a corrections official in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, said of the five-week course, during which the 297 police graduates also learning how to handle stress and hostage situations, and escort prisoners safely within jails and outside on their way to court.

On prisoners’ rights, the graduates were taught that “every jailed person keeps the rights and privileges of all members of society except for civil and political rights and the freedom to move freely outside.”

The new recruits, who will be deployed to the country’s 17 prisons, join 240 others who were trained in 2008. All told, there are some 1,000 prison guards for more than 6,000 prisoners throughout the country.

The prison training program is just one of the many functions performed by the U.N. mission, ranging from ensuring security and helping to respond to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, to improving roads and general infrastructure in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The 12,000-strong peacekeeping mission has been in the country since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest.

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