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STATEMENT ON REGIONAL PRISON CONDITIONS AND TREATMENT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has caused a disruption in the lives of citizens throughout the region and has exposed the vulnerabilities of thousands. Prisons throughout the region continue to suffer from over-crowding and inadequate sanitation which, given the current situation, leaves prisoners at an increased risk of being exposed to and contracting COVID-19. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies people in prisons as more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general population because of the confined conditions in which they live that facilitate transmission of diseases. It is understood that a sudden outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons would put overwhelming pressure on the public health care system in Caribbean countries.

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been adopted and ratified by regional governments and this creates a duty to make available proper healthcare to prisoners and ensure that living conditions are of a respectable standard. This duty is even more important in an on-going global health crisis.

Prisons concentrate individuals who are susceptible to infection of COVID-19 and those with a higher risk of complications should infection occur.   Appreciating the challenges regional governments are experiencing, the current situation makes it even more important that adequate medical treatment and testing, personal protective equipment and additional support is provided to those who are living and working within prisons with special attention to those showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. 

The benchmark for the level and quality of healthcare available to prisoners should be that of the healthcare available to wider society and they should have prompt access to the urgent care that they need. “The provision of health care for prisoners is a state responsibility. Prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community and should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status.” [1]

In March 2021, over 30 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 in Antigua and Barbuda putting both prisoners, workers and the general population at greater risk.[2] In December 2020 Barbados saw an outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons where at its peak 366 had tested positive, comprising 102 members of staff and 264 prisoners.[3]

Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) urges regional governments to make the health and wellbeing of prisoners in this pandemic a priority in order to ensure proper handling of the pandemic and to avoid overwhelming the health-care sector.

About GCL

Who we are, What we do, and Why we do it

GCL was established in Oct 2013 following a Conference in Trinidad and Tobago, which was attended by abolitionists from 12 Greater Caribbean Countries as well as abolitionists further afield.  

The Organisation was incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on January 31, 2014. GCL is the only organisation in the Greater Caribbean region that is devoted to working towards the permanent abolition of the death penalty in the Greater Caribbean and to support Caribbean abolitionist activists and organisations in this region.  

GCL strives to ensure that our region becomes part of the global trend, to join the 143 countries, about two thirds of the countries in the world, that have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. 

While our members condemn the rise of violent crime in our region and expresses solidarity with victims, we reject the notion that capital punishment will act as a deterrent or foster respect for life in our communities.  

GCL is committed to promoting peace, respect for life, and good neighbourliness as appropriate methods of reducing crime in the Greater Caribbean region. We believe that this strategy provides a more durable and effective solution than the taking of life. Let’s stop crime, not lives. 


[1]  The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) Rule 24.1.

[2] Prisons officers in Antigua protest over worsening conditions due to COVID – https://dominicanewsonline.com/news/covid-19/prison-officers-in-antigua-and-barbuda-protest-over-concerns-made-worse-by-covid-19with-video/

[3] Barbados Authorities say prison is now Covid free https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/caribbean/20210222/authorities-barbados-say-prison-now-covid-19-free

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Standing Up for Human Rights

On this day in 1948, more than 70 years ago, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

December 10 is observed as International Human Rights Day and it is important that today and every day, we stand up for Human Rights. Over 70 years ago Article 3 of the Declaration set out that EVERY person has a right to life, liberty, and security of person. The death penalty violates that right. Stop crime, not lives.

Below is a message from our Chairperson, Leela Ramdeen

In our fight against the death penalty we have to inspire an appreciation for the right to life among all persons.The work of GCL doesn’t exclude the victims and families.

GCL acknowledges the serious impact of violent crime on families and victims and encourages persons to still seek alternatives to the death penalty to find justice.

Leila Negron, sister of a murder victim and social activist in Puerto Rico, spoke with GCL Deputy Chair Carmelo Campos Cruz about why she supports abolishing the death penalty

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GCL Launches Educational Toolkit

GCL Foundational Assembly

Greater Caribbean for Life has launched its educational toolkit to assist activists and organisations as they work toward abolishing the death penalty in the Greater Caribbean. The production of this toolkit forms part of GCL’s activities under its EU partnered project to educate on death penalty abolition in the Eastern Caribbean and Barbados.

The launch of the toolkit is timely as a few of these target countries recently voted against adopting the UN Moratorium on the use of the death penalty and countries that had previously chosen to abstain have now firmly voted against the resolution.

GCL is committed to promoting peace, respect for life, and good neighbourliness as more durable and effective ways of reducing crime than the taking of life. Our ultimate goal is the permanent abolition of capital punishment in every country in the Greater Caribbean region and the creation of a culture of respect for the right to life and the inherent dignity of all human beings.

GCL members condemn the rise of violent crime in our region and express solidarity and compassion with the victims of crime, however, we reject the notion that capital punishment will act as a deterrent or foster respect for life in our communities.

It is our hope that this toolkit will assist in promoting respect for the right to life for all human beings in the Caribbean region.

You can download our toolkit below:

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GCL Executive Members Participate in Virtual Briefing on Death Penalty Issues

Newly appointed GCL executive member Angelina Sookoo-Bobb and GCL Chairperson Leela Ramdeen participated in a virtual briefing on Death Penalty issues as part of the Universal Periodic Review on November 12th 2020.

The GCL Members spoke about the current state of the Death Penalty within the rejoin and stressed the need to focus on abolition across the region.

You can view the recording of the virtual session below:

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GCL to host Virtual Film Screening

GCL invites you to join us on December 12th 2020 at 10am for a screening of the film, “Juan Melendez 6446”.

This film shows the struggle of a Puerto Rican man against the Criminal Justice System in the United States as he was wrongfully convicted and on Death Row for 17yrs, 8 months and 1 day before being exonerated in 2002.

Afterwards there will be a short panel discussion about the progress toward the abolition of Death Penalty in the Caribbean.

Register your attendance via this link today: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/tZElce…

Special Thanks to the Civil Rights Commission of Puerto Rico for the use of this film.

In the Caribbean, the number of people on death row dropped by over 70% in the past 25 years, as a result of judicial standards set by regional and international bodies as well as progressive decline in the resort to the death penalty as a sentencing option. With 80 people left on death row in just five countries, there is no doubt that the death penalty is on its way out in this region, too.

It now is time for the Caribbean to pull down the curtain on the death penalty and oversee the long-overdue changes in the criminal justice systems across the region to improve safety in the region and deliver justice for all.

Amnesty International

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18th World Day Against Death Penalty Webinar

On the 18th World Day Against Death Penalty (October 10th), Greater Caribbean For Life hosted a Virtual Panel discussion on the Death Penalty under the theme, “Access to Counsel: A Matter of Life and Death”.

Words of solidarity were extended by Mr Luis Maia, Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean who fund the project that GCL is currently involved in to promote the abolition of the Death Penalty in the region.

Panellists included Mr Kevin Rivera-Medina the President of the World Coalition Against Death Penalty, Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr Gregory Delzin Attorney – at – Law and Chair of the Trinidad and Tobago Sentencing Commission, Dr David Dorsett Attorney – at – Law and Antiguan and Barbudan anti-Death Penalty Activist and Mr Juan Melendez Colon an Exoneree who works with the Witness to Innocence project in the United States.

Each of the speakers gave powerful perspectives and re-affirmed their support to see the Death Penalty abolished throughout the Greater Caribbean Region. You can hear the powerful perspectives from the panel below:

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GCL’s Extraordinary Meeting of the General Assembly

The Extraordinary Meeting of the General Assembly of the membership of Greater Caribbean For Life will be held on October 24th 2020 at 10:00am AST via ZOOM

An Extraordinary Meeting of the General Assembly is used as a way to meet and deal with urgent matters that arise between meetings of the General Assembly.


What will happen at the Extraordinary Meeting of the General Assembly?
The meeting will provide an opportunity for all of the members of the Greater Caribbean For Life to meet to discuss the path forward for GCL as well as:
– Report on the work of GCL
– Discuss Amendments to the GCL Constitution
– Confirm recent appointments to GCL’s Executive

If you’re interested in joining the membership of GCL, please register by filling out this form

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Caribbean Diaspora and the Capital Punishment in the United States an overlooked issue – Part I

Written by Carmelo Campos-Cruz

Although the execution of Charles Elroy Laplace in St Kitts on 19 December 2008 was the last in the Caribbean and the number of death sentences in our region has declined steadily, there is another way to impose capital punishment on people from this region; by a death sentence in another country where a person is subject to a criminal procedure. This situation applies considerably to the Caribbean Diaspora in the United States of America. This the main destination for migrants from our region and the only country in the Americas that executes people every year. Census from 2010 estimated that 3.7 million nationals from the islands of the Caribbean lived in the United States, plus 4.6 million Puerto Ricans. The Caribbean immigrant population increased to 4.4 million in 2017, and to almost 5.5 million Puerto Ricans in 2016.  


The objective of this article is to summarize the application of capital punishment to the people from the Caribbean in the United States. The information presented comes primarily from two sources: (1) a page devoted to the situation of foreign nationals under sentence of death and (2) a report issued last April about Puerto Rican facing the death penalty in the United States. The second part of this analysis, to be published later, will examine specific cases and histories of human beings from our region who have been executed or who are awaiting execution in the US. 

People from the Caribbean executed in the United States

Since 1976, when the United States reestablished capital punishment, 24 persons from the Greater Caribbean have been executed in four states; 13 were Mexicans. Texas, the most prolific jurisdiction employing the death penalty in US history, accounts for 14 executions, followed by Florida (5) and Virginia (3). When we focus on the islands of the Caribbean, four Cuban nationals have been executed, followed by the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico with one person executed from each of these countries.

Persons from the Greater Caribbean executed in the United States since 1976

NameCountryDate of executionStateMethod of execution
Leslie LowenfieldGuyana04/13/1988LouisianaElectrocution
Carlos SantanaDominican Republic03/23/1993TexasLethal injection
Ramon MontoyaMexico03/25/1993TexasLethal injection
Pedro MedinaMexico03/25/1997FloridaElectrocution
Irineo MontoyaMexico06/18/1997TexasLethal injection
Mario MurphyMexico09/17/1997VirginiaLethal injection
Jose VillafuerteHonduras04/22/1998ArizonaLethal injection
Miguel FloresMexico11/09/2000TexasLethal injection
Javier SuarezMexico08/14/2002TexasLethal injection
Rigoberto SanchezCuba10/02/2002FloridaLethal injection
Angel MaturinoMexico06/27/2006TexasLethal injection
Angel NievesPuerto Rico12/13/2006FloridaLethal injection
Jose MedellinMexico08/05/2008TexasLethal injection
Heliberto ChiHonduras08/07/2008TexasLethal injection
Edward BellJamaica02/19/2009VirginiaLethal injection
Yosvanis Valle Cuba11/10/2009TexasLethal injection
Humberto LealMexico07/07/2011TexasLethal injection
Manuel ValleCuba09/28/2011FloridaLethal injection
Edgard TamayoMexico01/22/2014TexasLethal injection
Juan ChavezCuba02/14/2014FloridaLethal injection
Ramiro HernandezMexico04/09/2014TexasLethal injection
Alfredo PrietoEl Salvador10/01/2015VirginiaLethal injection
Ruben CardenasMexico11/08/2017TexasLethal injection
Roberto RamosMexico11/14/2018TexasLethal injection

Summary by country

Number
Mexico13
Cuba4
Honduras2
Dominican Republic1
El Salvador1
Guyana1
Jamaica1
Puerto Rico1
Total24
Central America3
Islands of the Caribbean + Guyana8
from abolitionist countries of the Caribbean18
from retentionist countries of the Caribbean6

Persons of Caribbean origin on death row in the United States today

There are 106 persons from countries of the Greater Caribbean waiting to be executed in seven States (plus one in the federal jurisdiction), including 35 persons from the islands of the Caribbean. Most of these persons originate from Puerto Rico (20) and Cuba (8). Another ten individuals have had their death sentences reversed and are waiting for a new trial or a sentencing hearing in which capital punishment may be imposed again.

Persons from the Islands of the Caribbean 

under Sentence of Death in the United States

NameCountryState
Manuel Machado AlvarezCubaCalifornia
Omar BlancoCubaFlorida
Ana Maria CardonaCubaFlorida
Jesus DelgadoCubaFlorida
Leonardo FranquiCubaFlorida
Pablo San MartinCubaFlorida
Marbel MendozaCubaFlorida
Manolo RodriguezCubaFlorida
Fabio Evelio GomezDominican RepublicArizona
Obel Cruz GarciaDominican RepublicTexas
Borgela PhilistinHaitiPennsylvania
Robert GordonJamaicaFlorida
Granville RitchieJamaicaFlorida
Albert ReidJamaicaPennsylvania
Christopher HenriquezPuerto RicoCalifornia
Christian CruzPuerto RicoFlorida
Ricardo GonzalezPuerto RicoFlorida
Norberto PietriPuerto RicoFlorida
Michael RiveraPuerto RicoFlorida
Héctor Gabriel SanchezPuerto RicoFlorida
Angel R. SantiagoPuerto RicoFlorida
Reinaldo RiveraPuerto RicoGeorgia
Orlando BaezPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Jose BusanetPuerto RicoPennsylvania
George Ivan LopezPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Hector M. MoralesPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Cletus C. RiveraPuerto RicoPennsylvania
William RiveraPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Edwin R. RomeroPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Abraham SanchezPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Jose UderraPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Christopher HenriquezPuerto RicoNorth Carolina
James BroadnaxPuerto RicoTexas
Daniel TroyaPuerto RicoFederal government 
Linda CartySt KittsTexas
Ian LightbournThe BahamasCalifornia

Persons from the Islands of the Caribbean previously sentenced to death and awaiting resentencing or a new trial in the United States

NameCountryState
Lancelot ArmstrongJamaicaFlorida
Victor CaraballoPuerto RicoFlorida
Joel LebronPuerto RicoFlorida
Alex PaganPuerto RicoFlorida
Michael ShellitoPuerto RicoFlorida
Milton MontalvoPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Noel MontalvoPuerto RicoPennsylvania
Dolan DarlingThe BahamasCalifornia
Dane AbdoolTrinidad & TobagoFlorida
Noel DoorbalTrinidad & TobagoFlorida

Summary by country

Sentenced to deathAwaiting resentencing or a new trialTotal
Mexico51152
Puerto Rico20525
Cuba808
El Salvador808
Honduras505
Guatemala303
Colombia202
Dominican Republic202
Jamaica314
The Bahamas112
Costa Rica101
Haiti101
St. Kitts & Nevis101
Trinidad & Tobago022
Total10610116
Central America17017
Islands of the Caribbean35944
from abolitionist countries of the Caribbean93699
from retentionist countries of the Caribbean13417

Conclusion

The Caribbean Diaspora has been adversely affected by capital punishment in the United States. There are more people from the Greater Caribbean sentenced to death in the US (106) than persons facing execution in all the retentionist countries of the Caribbean (85). Notably, there are more persons from countries that have abolished capital punishment (Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Haiti) than from retentionist countries (Cuba, Jamaica, The Bahamas, St. Kitts and Trinidad and Tobago), due to the size of their respective migrant population in the US. As this article was limited to present basic figures, more studies will be needed to understand the impact of this issue in the struggle to eradicate this cruel punishment in the Americas.

Featured

Access to Counsel: A Matter of Life or Death

October 10th 2020 is the 18th World Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty worldwide. This year will be dedicated to the right to effective legal representation for individuals who may face a death sentence.

Without access to effective legal representation during arrest, detention, trial and post-trial, due process cannot be guaranteed.In a capital case, the consequences that can arise from a lack of effective legal representation can be nothing less than the difference between life and death.

On the national and international levels, the right to legal representation is enshrined in most constitutions and human rights instruments. Unfortunately, justice systems around the world repeatedly violate this right and fail to give those charged with a crime adequate legal representation.

World Coalition Against Death Penalty

10 Things YOU can do to end the death penalty

  1. Get in touch with your member of parliament
  2. Organize or attend a demonstration to educate persons on death penalty abolition
  3. Share artwork and stories of individuals directly affected by the death penalty
  4. Donate to GCL to further the work of abolitionists in the Caribbean
  5. Follow the social media campaign #nodeathpenalty
  6. Join events and spark conversation around ending the death penalty globally
  7. Subscribe to the GCL Newsletter to educate yourself about the death penalty
  8. Become a member of GCL and help push the abolitionist effort forward
  9. Mobilize media awareness on local radio talk shows
  10. Participate in the GCL Speaking Tour the week of October 10th 2020

Additional Resources:

Featured

Report Published on Opinions on Abolishing the Death Penalty in the Eastern Caribbean and Barbados

The Death Penalty Project on April 7th published its latest report: Sentenced to Death Without Execution: Why capital punishment has not yet been abolished in the Eastern Caribbean and Barbados by Roger Hood and Florence Seemungal with the assistance of Amaya Athill (Former Project Assistant at GCL)

You can download a copy of the report below:

“A study of this kind is the absolute need of the hour. The Caribbean countries have never had the benefit of an empirical study of this nature, looking at the opinions of influential individuals on the death penalty. It is time for the respective governments to show principled leadership to bring an end to capital punishment in the Caribbean. For the first time, they can rely on accurate data and independent research to introspect on their stance on the death penalty and take the necessary steps required for abolition”.

Leela Ramdeen, Executive Board Member, The Greater Caribbean for Life

This research study provides new empirical evidence based on the opinions of informed, influential citizens of why, in all the six member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and Barbados, the death penalty remains on their statute books even though no persons have been executed for many years. The last execution in the region was carried out in St Kitts and Nevis in 2008. No one has been executed in the other countries for more than 20 years and in Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and Barbados for more than 30 years. Nine of the 12 Commonwealth Caribbean countries (including all jurisdictions addressed in this study, except for Barbados) have nobody, or only one prisoner, on death row. The research sheds light on why these countries hang on to capital punishment and what are the barriers and hindrances to its complete abolition.

This research, the first of its kind in the Caribbean region, interviewed personally 100 people, drawn from the seven jurisdictions, who were regarded by our knowledgeable local collaborators as ‘opinion formers’. They were selected from four areas of public life: politics and the higher civil service; criminal justice and legal practice; religious leaders; and well-regarded and influential members of civil society. Forty-eight revealed they favoured retention of the death penalty and 52 favoured of its abolition.

This study was co-funded by a grant received from the European Union and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The study has been carried out as part of a larger collaborative project funded by the European Union and undertaken by The Death Penalty Project; the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill); local civil society organisations Greater Caribbean for Life and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association;  and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Professor Roger Hood (Emeritus Professor of Criminology at the University of Oxford and one of the foremost experts on the death penalty worldwide) was commissioned to devise this research and write the report and his colleague Dr Florence Seemungal (adjunct staff member of the University of the West Indies Open Campus) was responsible for organising and carrying out the fieldwork, assisted by attorney-at -law Amaya Athill.

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Join us

Map courtesy of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
Map courtesy of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Dear abolitionist friends and colleagues,

It is with pleasure and optimism that we present you with this effort and call to join forces, strategies and human will with the purpose of eradicating the death penalty in the Greater Caribbean.
The Greater Caribbean for Life organisation (GCL) was created on 2 October 2013, during the Second Conference on the Death Penalty within the Greater Caribbean held in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Greater Caribbean for Life aims at:

  • campaigning for and working towards the permanent abolition of the death penalty in the Greater Caribbean;
  • supporting Caribbean abolitionist activists and organizations in this Region; and
  • collaborating with the international abolitionist community.

GCL is an independent, not-for-profit civil society organization, incorporated under the laws of Puerto Rico.

Join GGL now and contribute to eradicating the death penalty in the Greater Caribbean.
contact@gcforlife.org
facebook
GCFLife
twitter
@GCLnoDP
295 Palmas Inn Way, Suite 134, Humacao, Puerto Rico 00791,
Tel: 1(787)375-6787
15 Pinewood Avenue, Ridgeview Heights,Tacarigua, Trinidad, W.I.,
Tel: 1(868)299-8945

 Sponsor

Women Sentenced to Death: An Invisible Reality

Join us as three dynamic activists unpack the realities of gender inequality in the Criminal Justice System for Women on Death Row.

About this event

REGISTER FOR THE WEBINAR VIA ZOOM

“Observed every 10 October, the World Day Against the Death Penalty unifies the global abolitionist movement and mobilizes civil society, political leaders, lawyers, public opinion and more to support the call for universal abolition of capital punishment. The day encourages and consolidates the political and general awareness of the world-wide movement against the death penalty.” – World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Greater Caribbean For Life joins in observance of the global theme for 10 October 2021, which has been dedicated to women who risk being sentenced to death, who have received a death sentence, who have been executed, and to those who have had their death sentences commuted, exonerated, or pardoned.

“Women’s needs in prison are frequently ignored. This is attributable to gender discrimination and stereotypes of women embraced by the criminal justice system: ‘popular as a victim, forgotten as a defendant’. This ignorance is even more pernicious in the case of women on death row.” – Penal Reform International and Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide | A factsheet on prison conditions for women facing the death penalty

Our Speakers are active in the women’s rights and abolitionist movement in the Caribbean and globally and will unpack the impact of gender discrimination that expose women to intersecting forms of structural inequalities in the Criminal Justice System.

This virtual event falls under the European Commission Project EIDHR/2017/ 394-69 “Building a Platform for Abolition: Strengthening the Anti-Death Penalty Movement in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.”

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