Vybz Kartel and other inmates on his prison block are reportedly on a hunger strike.
Authorities recently conducted a search at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Facility, which is where dancehall star Vybz Kartel is currently incarcerated. Even though it seems to be a normal occurrence at this particular Jamaican prison, this time inmates have alleged abuse, and the timing of it also seems to coincide with Kartel’s co-accused, Shawn Storm, going live on Christmas Day.
Just before Christmas night was over, Shawn Storm made an appearance on Instagram Live. He shared the time with St Lucian singer MonCherie, and it lasted for more than 30 minutes. No one saw Storm’s face because he hid it and also didn’t speak but shared his thoughts in the chat. The screen was also covered in darkness.
During his appearance, he called for MonCherie to replay her collab with the Worl Boss named “Gates of Heaven” after she cut it mid-song. Throughout the Live, he showed that he is still a devout member of the Gaza camp. At one point, he posted, “Big up e boss to @vybzkartel yuhnuhknodatttt fullygaza.” Many fans called for the release of Kartel during the Live. Earlier in the year, Vybz Kartel also went Live on Instagram, and his phone was eventually confiscated following a similar search. It would seem that this recent Christmas search may have been for the same reason though that hasn’t been confirmed.
A human rights group, Stand Up for Jamaica (SUFJ) has called for the immediate investigation of inmate abuse during the search. The executive director for SUFJ, Carla Gullotta, revealed through a statement that an attorney visited the maximum-security prison on Monday, December 28 and received many reports about the alleged abuse.
Many of the prisoners have claimed that they were severely beaten with batons and that their personal belongings, which may have included televisions and radios, were destroyed. In response, the prisoners have gone on a hunger strike, she revealed. “Some blocks are on hunger strike, and inmates do not come out from their cells,” Gullotta said through the statement.
The claims have since been denied by Matthew Samuda, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security. He said that the accusations were “rumours and unfortunate mischief-making.”
He added, “I have instructed Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, Dr Marc Thomas, to invite representatives of INDECOM and the Office of the Public Defender to visit the institution, undertake independent investigations, and inform the public of their findings urgently.”
According to information that THE STAR said they received, on Christmas Day, a correctional officer pulled a firearm on an inmate after he refused to step out of his cell for a search. They also stated it has been alleged that on December 26, correctional officers used sticks to poke inmates while they were asleep. The timing may all be a coincidence, but within recent times Vybz Kartel’s Privy Council lawyer, Isat Buchanan, tagged the dancehall star in an Instagram post with an old clip of Tupac saying “trust nobody.” Buchanan added the caption, “Me talking to 2021 after experiencing 2020.”
Shawn Storm is serving life imprisonment at the aforementioned facility along with his mentor Vybz Kartel for the 2011 murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams. While Kartel will have to serve 32 and a half years before he is eligible for parole, Shawn Storm will become eligible after 22 and a half years. Both men are hoping for a better outcome on their sentences when they appeal to the Privy Council next year.