The Caribbean may be known as a vacation paradise, but the backlog in its overburdened courts has soared as homicide rates have nearly doubled in several countries since 1995.

Underfunded and inefficient courts have failed to keep up with the punishing caseloads, stalling lives and even acting as a disincentive for foreign investment. In some countries, thousands of defendants have languished in decrepit lockups for years without trial.

Perhaps nowhere is the problem more marked than in Jamaica, which is struggling to whittle down a crushing number of old criminal cases and where the conviction rate for murders is just 5 percent.