27 Jan 2005

Calls for overcrowded Noumea jail to be improved following three suicides

9:14 pm on 27 January 2005

The suicide of three inmates in the past four months at Noumea's prison has prompted a call from the local human rights league to improve the conditions of the jail.

New Caledonia's Human Rights League says the current wave of suicides is due to overcrowding, under-staffing and a lack of psychological assistance available to detainees.

The latest fatality in Noumea's prison is a young prisoner who hanged himself, using bedsheets.

Early December, an inmate was found dead in his cell having hanged himself with a piece of material and last October, a third also died after hanging himself.

It is currently estimated up to 380 prisoners are serving jail sentences at the Camp Est prison near Noumea, which was initially built to accommodate only 190.

Ethnic Melanesian Kanaks make up for up to eighty percent of the prison's current population.

The deteriorating conditions have also been underlined by the local prison wardens union and a visiting high-level French official, who had also expressed shock at the prisoners' living conditions.