The Grenada Revolution Online

About the Detainees

From the words of a report from the Office of Special Investigations:

This historical account has been prepared from information obtained from two (2) main sources: the Richmond Hill Prisons and the Office of Special Investigation. The latter source became involved in these matters in June 1980 from which time, up to date records have been maintained.

The possibility exists however, that there might arise some shortcomings and minor inaccuracies due to the fact that the exigencies of the revolution in the early months did militate in several ways and for several reasons against the preparation and maintenance of proper records.

The names of the detainees listed here, often called political prisoners, are drawn from differing original lists and source materials for this presentation, including many Office of Special Investigation and Official Prison Lists available.

Be aware that as new source information is obtained there may be minor changes on the page.

The question of how many detainees there were is asked to this day.

The number of those incarcerated on the Detainee List , 13 MAR 1979-27 OCT 1983 at this web site is 543. The names of 543 persons on that list are those men and whomen who passed through the detention facilities in Grenada during the People’s Revolutionary Government.

During the time span from 13 MAR 1979 through 27 OCT 1983, on the Detainee List , there are Detainees incarcerated for varying lengths of time, including some held only for one day, or a couple of days. There were those whose days were endless.

A popular total number, given by former detainees and others, is that 3,330 persons passed through the detention system. Another total given is 600. No sources are given for these counts.

Some say don’t count those men at Hope Vale. Some say don’t count the people on remand, awaiting trial. Some say don’t count the men who were associated with the Gairy regime. These kinds of details and parameters seemed to cloud the overall picture. Who cared about numbers? In almost all cases, Grenadian citizens, even if only one, spent time in a location under conditions that they could not leave of their own free will and often they did not know how they got there.

There is and was confusion about who was a lawful or unlawful detainee. There is the inexactness of the date of admission and/or the date of detention.

The names of those detained were often recorded in prison population rosters laden with misspellings, inaccuracy or incompleteness. Names may be listed in error or are missing. Victor Husbands admitted such errors.

Sources include the lists compiled by the People's Revolutionary Government that are reproduced in the "Grenada Documents" book, reproduced on the Grenada Documents microfiche at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, the Captured Documents collection at the Univ. of Pittsburgh; different issues of the “Grenada Newsletter" and "Caribbean Monthly Bulletin" compiled by Alister Hughes, the "Recommendations of the Claims Commission 1988", the pertinent bid for claims during the 2001-2006 Truth & Reconciliation Commission Report plus books and periodicals. In addition, there is a sheet issued by the Permanent Mission of Grenada to the United Nations, dated 8 January 1982; Ras Herb’s “Rehabilitation or Death” was useful.

In the Richmond Hill Prisons system there was a separate accounting and prison section for criminals. No lists have been published for the criminal section of the prison population.

The official Detainee Prison Lists do not usually list these criminals. Nonetheless, some people were accused of political activity or picked up in keeping with the Terrorist Laws or the anti-drug laws. In addition to political activities, some were alleged to be involved in what was considered criminal activity. The blurred categorization of ganja dealing and use with a criminal or detainee classification occurs, for example.

The locations for incarceration were Richmond Hill Prison overlooking the Town of St. George; Marli Militia Camp in Sauteurs, St. Patrick’s; Hope Vale located in St. David’s; Fort Royal in St. George’s, as well as Fort Rupert, and the Central Police Station. Fort Rupert was also the location of Camp Boney. There is no delineation between Fort Rupert where prisoners were held and the Central Police Station, located at Fort Rupert; consequently they are identified as one location in this listing.

In the comprehensive Detainee Lists, it is possible that some names are the result of persons “gaming” the system. The most notorious of these was the Muslim Yusuf who went by the name Joseph Charles, but most likely he was Leroy Joseph, though even this is not confirmed. A similar thing happened with Mikey Mark being Michael James or Pascal.

The family structure in Grenada and the lack of regularity and standardization on birth records led to situations where, for example, a young man would live with the uncle of his mother and take on that man's surname. Blood brothers could carry different surnames. Some people listed their current family name or took the name of their stepfather or some other relative’s name; i.e. Allan Branch Mitchell Campbell. Shades of that may be at work in the list.

Being ordered to prison, no matter if there is a reason or not, traditionally signifies dishonor to a family; an unfortunate reality.

Note that Rastafarians and marijuana smokers generally got picked up in the sweeps of JUL 1981 and transferred to Hope Vale which opened up in JUN 1981. At Hope Vale, the prisoners grew crops for the People’s Revolutionary Army in a kind of rural atmosphere with guards and no pay.

Note the short-termers. These were people picked up and then discharged the same day or a short time later. Though they balloon the total number of the detainee population, they are not dismissed from this account. These short-term detainees did experience the emotional upset, humiliation and anger at their arrest, no matter how short the time served. As an eventful occurrence in their lives, they are listed here whether their arrest was a mistake or not.

The prison lists are often contradictory. In general, officials and their secretaries tried to keep records accurate, but the lists were not alphabetical or chronological, riddled with mis-spellings. Often, the Detainee List itself is not dated.

One official who tried to pull together narrative, lists and statistics about the detainees was the late Victor Husbands, head of the Office of Special Investigations.

According to a document from 29 SEP 1981, photocopied in the Grenada Documents, the population within the Richmond Hill Prison system was outlined in a letter from the Office of Special Investigations, signed by the late Victor Husbands, who was Special Investigator at that time, to Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. The third paragraph from the top reads:

In view of the following factors: (1) the over population of the Prisons which now stand at 333 with detainees at Richmond Hill Prisons alone accounting for some 161 while at Hope Vale there are 45: (2) the attendant high costs of maintenance and (3) the passing of an Amendment to the Preventive Detention Regulations (Peoples Law No. 21 of 1979) providing for a Restriction Order which may be imposed upon a released Detainee with severe penalties for infringement (vide Peoples Law No. 29 of 1981), the Task Force has taken a unanimous decision to recommend the release of a number of Detainees in the first instance, who it feels, are no longer threats to the Security of the State, nor to Public Safety and Order.

Husbands was additionally responsible for this summary FOREWORD of a larger report from the start of 1982:

Historical Account of the Detainee situation since the March 13th Revolution

Prepared by the Office of Special Investigations

Foreword

The detention of certain persons in a Revolutionary situation is a normal process of any Revolution. In this context, the Grenada Revolution of March 13th, 1979, was no exception.

The revolution however, was itself a “Model” in the light of contemporary Revolutions as apart from the comparatively few detentions, the extermination of Individuals and Groups forming the bulwark of the ousted Regime was particularly prevented and carefully avoided.

Apart from these persons detained by reason of the normal process of the Revolution, who are usually Government Ministers, Party Officials and other individuals, all avid and diehard supporters of the ousted Regime and who are capable of engaging and do actually engage in activities designed to promote, incite and instigate disaffection and ill will among individuals and groups against the Government and also to create strife, rebellion and civil disturbance, thereby endangering Public Safety, Public Order, National Security and the Defence of Grenada, several other persons were detained at varying periods of the Revolution for reasons which relate to activities of a subversive and or counter revolutionary nature.

Such activities include:

(1) The engagement and/or involvement in activities designed to subvert, sabotage and destabilize the economy of the State and the People’s Revolutionary Government;

(2) The engagement and/or involvement in activities desined to overthrow by force or other means the People’s Revolutionary Government, the People’s Revolutionary Army, the People’s Militia; and

(3) The engagement and/or involvement in activities of a terrorist nature.

By reason of the ‘process of the Revolution’, a term specifically employed for the purposes of this account, a total of 147 persons were detained during the first three months of the Revolution. Of this amount, only 13 are still in detention [beginning of 1982].

Of the 216 persons detained between June 1979 and December 1981, by reason of their direct or suspected involvement in activities designed to subvert, sabotage and destabilize the Economy of the State and the People’s Revolutionary Government 117 of these are still in detention.

By their direct or suspected engagement and/or involvement in activities designed to overthrow by force or other means, the People’s Revolutionary Government, the People’s Revolutionary Army and the People’s Militia, a total of 59 were detained during the period June 1979 to December 1981. Of this amount 23 were released after extensive investigations while 12 have been charged and awaiting trial before the courts and another 24 are the subjects of continuing investigations.

And by reason of their engagement and/or involvement in activities of a terrorist nature, 24 persons were detained during the period June 1980 to December 1981. Of this amount 10 have been charged and are awaiting trial; 8 are soon to be charged; 1 was released after exhaustive investigations; 3 were killed in Military action while another 2 are subjects of ongoing investigations.

HISTORICAL ACCOUNT

In the following pages, a historical account of the Detainee situation since the March 13th 1979 Revolution up to and including the 31st December, is graphically and comprehensively presented.

DETENTION

The total number of persons detained during the period under review was 498. Of this amount 449 were detained at the Richmond Hill Prisons; 31 at Fort Rupert and 18 at Camp Marli. Those detained at the latter centres were released there at and were never admitted to the Richmond Hill Prisons. Figures for Richmond Hill Prison include the Hope Vale centre.

RELEASES

A total of 307 detainees were released during the same period. A breakdown of these releases would show that 258 were released from the Richmond Hill Prison; 31 from Fort Rupert and 18 from Camp Marli. A total of 75 detainees were released in 1981 alone. These figures do not include three detainees who are serving Prison sentences for crimes committed under the umbrella and protection of the ousted regime.

OFFENCES

A total of 47 persons were charged with various offences before courts. Of this amount 17 were sentenced to terms of imprisonment; 2 were acquitted and/or dismissed; and 9 had their charges withdrawn or quashed. A total of 36 are now facing charges before the courts.

ESCAPES

During the period under review a total of twenty five (25) detainees escaped from Prison while another four (4) attempted to do so. Of those escaping, sixteen (16) were recaptured leaving a total of nine (9) still at large. Of those recaptures, five (5) were convicted and sentenced to one (1) year of imprisonment while five (5) had their charged withdrawn and the other six (6) are awaiting trial. Of the four (4) attempting to escape, two (2) are currently charged indictably before the courts while the other two (2) were quashed.

Due to erroneous information, new detentions, releases, transfers, alternate locations, illnesses, escapees, deaths and invasion from 13 MAR 1979 to 27 OCT 1983, the countless changes in the prison population invite confusion. There are too many different kinds of situations and timelines to determine the number of detainees with exactitude. We can accept that each and every detainee was affected, as were their families.


Within the Richmond Hill Prisons system there was a category classification scheme assigned to people in detention.

From a prison administrative document, circa 1981, the categories were:

CATEGORY I

Persons considered dangerous and a threat to National Security including Public Safety and Public Order. Comprises persons who either have been engaged in activities of a subversive and counter-revolutionary nature or who have been closely associated with such persons.

CATEGORY II

Persons considered less dangerous and pose little threat to National Security, etc. Comprises persons who have been involved at some level or were indirectly associated with elements of subversion and counter revolution.

CATEGORY III

Persons considered not dangerous and pose no threat to National Security, etc. Comprises persons who have been indulging in the use and production of prohibited drugs or who are common criminals specializing in House breaking, Larceny and other crimes of that nature.


In another Detainee Category list, also from 1981, is the following:

  1. Detained on Recommendation of the Police - no charges proffered:-
  2. To be Charged under the Terrorism Act with offences connected with the November 17 Massacre:-
  3. Possible involvement in "Two (2)" above: to be further investigated:-
  4. Saw Wanted Men but failed to Report:-
  5. To be Charged under Terrorism Act in connection with 26th April [1980] plot:-
  6. Assisting a Fugitive to escape Custody: to wit: The Budhlalls
  7. Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunition:-
  8. Complicity in November 1979 Plot: No Incriminating Evidence Available:-
  9. Complicity in October 1979 Plot: No Incriminating Evidence Available:-
  10. Involvement in illegal Passport Racket:-
  11. Conspiracy - to wit: Illegal recruitment of Police Aids (Mongoose Gang):-
  12. Awaiting Trial on charge of Causing Grievous Harm:-
  13. To be Charged with Fraud:-
  14. To be Charged with Giving False Information to the Police/Security:-
  15. Escaping Legal Custody: to wit: Escaping from Prison on 13th March, 1979:-
  16. Held in the interest of national security, public safety and public order. Further investigations to be conducted:-
  17. To be Charged under the Terrorism Act for obtaining and having in his possession sensitive information:-


No matter the category or the travails of the prisoner, families also suffered. One anonymous account turned up in a Trinidadian weekly newspaper - Letter from Wife of a Detainee 1980.

Anglican Archdeacon of Grenada Hoskins Huggins in a 14 March 1982 sermon at the Roman Catholic Cathedral, spoke of the detainees. According to Hughes, the Archdeacon said this:

We call upon Government, as we have done many times before, both publicly and privately in our many dialogues with the Prime Minister (and I want almost to plead on bended knees to the Minister) to release the detainees against whom no charge can be laid, and to charge the others and bring them to a speedy and just trial.

Some family members or prisoners themselves wrote directly to Minister of National Security Maurice Bishop and others in authority [see within the Detainee List].


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