He also said that the Government is committed to ensuring that the rights of persons taken into custody are not violated.
Mr. Holness was speaking to journalists during a tour of the Freeport Police Station lockup in Montego Bay, St. James, on Saturday afternoon (December 9). Earlier that day the Prime Minister visited detention centres in Kingston and St. Catherine to get a first hand look at the operations.
“The reason why we decided to do a tour of the facilities is to ensure that those who are in custody, are being treated appropriately; that we do an inspection of the facilities and that we review the systems that are used to process them, to ensure that their rights are maintained, that they are treated with dignity and that the systems work to get them out of detention as quickly as possible,” he said.
Mr. Holness noted that the facilities visited were generally up to standard, but there was room for improvement, and as such, “the objective of these visits is to see what we could do to improve conditions.”
The Prime Minister lauded members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) for their efforts in maintaining law and order during the State of Public Emergency (SOE) and Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO), which currently obtain in sections of the island; as well as the treatment of persons who are detained during the operations.
“I must commend the police and the military so far, for the way in which they have used the extra-ordinary and special powers that they have been given under the State of (Public) Emergency (SOE) and the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs). There have been no reported cases of abuse…certainly I have not come across any,” Mr. Holness said.
He underscored that the police have been ensuring that persons who are committing criminal acts are targeted and “that those persons who may have been detained, but are not part of a criminal enterprise or committing any crime, are released very quickly.”
For his part, Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of the SOE in St. James, Anthony Morris, said that since the start of the SOE in the parish, the police have detained 4,264 persons, and of that number only 24 remain in custody.
The Superintendent highlighted that the lockup at Freeport can accommodate 220 persons, and has not been at that number since it was upgraded in January of this year. The number of persons now in the lockup is 145.
Meanwhile, Mr. Holness also visited sections of the Mt. Salem community in St. James, to get feedback from residents regarding several programmes which have been implemented in the area since it was declared a ZOSO last year.
Accompanying the Prime Minister were: Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang; Attorney General, Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte; Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Rocky Meade; Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson and other security personnel.