Nation outraged after elderly man spends 40 years in prison, dies without trial

The story of a now-deceased 81-year-old man who spent about four decades incarcerated without trial has rocked the nation.  

The story came to public attention after the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) shared details from its quarterly report on Wednesday (June 3).

The damning report has sparked outrage with some calling it “heartbreaking” and “gut-wrenching” particularly as they saw photos of his condition prior to his death, covered with bedbugs, known colloquially as ‘chink’.

According to the report, 81-year-old Noel Chambers was incarcerated on February 4, 1980 and had been in lockup for about 40 years without trial until his death in 2019. He was initially charged with murder.

 The report further highlighted that there was confusion over whether Chambers was ever convicted as he was described as “unfit to plead”.

“The Commissioner of Corrections in his report to INDECOM states that “Noel Chambers was tried and convicted in the Home Circuit Court on February 4, 1980, for the offense of murder. He was deemed unfit to plead and was held at the Governor General’s Pleasure,” read the report.

“However, in the Commission’s respectful opinion he could not have been unfit to plead and convicted. Indeed, his commitment document by the Home Circuit Court has the words ‘guilty of’ struck out and replaced with ‘unfit to plead’,” added the report.

Even more alarming is the deplorable conditions Chambers lived in while in prison which was described in the report.

Not to mention the near incredulous state Chambers was in prior to his death. 

The report reveals that at the time of Chambers’ death, he was covered with what appeared to be vermin bites, live bedbugs (‘chink’), and showed signs of having bed sores. 

The report further revealed that he ultimately died from acute pyelonephritis, “a sudden and severe kidney infection”. 

It is these photos from the post-mortem that struck the greatest chord with Jamaicans, some of whom called the images the worst they had ever seen.

The report also disclosed that Chambers’ family along with a human rights attorney made several attempts to have his case heard in court, but their efforts proved futile.

“In time, his family grew disheartened with the process,” added the report. 

INDECOM has said that the death of  Noel Chambers has lead the commission to initiate a wider enquiry into conditions under which persons unfit to plead are being held at correctional institutions across the country.