PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The nation’s largest prison was symbolically reopened here on April 14 when Leon Charles, director general of the Haitian National Police and Brigadier Gen. Ronald S. Coleman, commander, Combined Joint Task Force – Haiti toured the facility upon completion of its refurbishment.
The prison, which was heavily damaged during the civil unrest, underwent more than $40 thousand worth of renovations, fixing problems ranging from plumbing and electrical work to the roof. The work was done by Haitian laborers under a contract with CJTF-Haiti.
“The work we did was requested by the Haitian national government,” Coleman said. “And there was no better place to start than the largest prison in the country.”
The prison, which held approximately 1,500 occupants, was a top priority for both the Haitian government and the task force, according to Coleman.
“This project will greatly facilitate the accomplishment of our mission, which is to provide safety and security to the nation,” Coleman explained.
“When [the HNP] would take criminals off the streets, they would have nowhere to put them,” he continued. “Now they do.”
When asked about the numerous other prisons in need of repair throughout the country Coleman said, “when you count to ten you start with the number one, and this is the biggest one in the country. It’s a tremendous start.”
Among the many improvements to the facility, the most noticeable was the removal of debris, according to Cdr. Brad A. Steele, liaison officer between the HNP and CJTF-Haiti.
“There was trash stacked up six feet high in some areas of the prison,” Steele explained, “It was a real sanitation issue.”
Other projects included the rewiring of the electricity in the facility and fixing plumbing needs such as the repair of toilets, sinks and showers, as well as restoration of the roof.
“It’s amazing how much has been accomplished in such a short period of time,” Coleman stated.
Other aspects of the prison were also revamped.
Nearly 30 doors throughout the prison were repaired or replaced and modifications were made to the facility’s medical clinic. There were also repairs made to more than 30 of the kitchen‘s burner units.
“The improvements were very significant,” Steele said. “There was rotting food in the kitchen, trash everywhere, disease-breeding water flowing through the prison; a real mess.”
In less than four weeks, the prison has been returned to its previous standards, according to Steele.
“Now they have showers and toilets,” he explained, “and the clinic and kitchen facilities are usable again.”
The overhauled prison is another step in establishing a more professional look for the newly reorganized HNP, which was plagued with corruption before Charles was appointed to head-up the force.
“The prison refurbishing is just another step in building the relationship between the Haitian people and the HNP,” Steele said “It lets them know that the new force is a different force, it’s one that should be respected, but not feared.”