23 July 2008Human rights officers with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti have welcomed the graduation from training of more than 200 new prison guards to help improve conditions in the country’s overcrowded jail system. Some 227 new agents graduated last Friday from training at the Haitian police academy and are expected to begin working as corrections officers on 29 July, according to a statement released by the mission – known as MINUSTAH – yesterday. The graduates received training in law, ethics, anti-corruption values, human rights and first aid, as well as the more usual areas of police studies. This is part of a rule of law campaign by the Haitian National Police (HNP), and backed by MINUSTAH, to improve the training of corrections officers. There are now nearly 750 prison guards in Haiti following this course, or about one guard for every 10 inmates in the country, which is the most impoverished in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti has 17 correctional centres, and most are highly overcrowded and marked by poor conditions. Thierry Fagart, head of the human rights section at MINUSTAH, noted that the new corrections officers are supposed to be caretakers as well as guards. “It is [their task] to not only guard the detainees but also to protect them,” he said, adding that while prison inmates are locked up, they still retained many rights.