Legislators Discuss Prison Situation

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On 9 October the House of Assembly passed the Prison Act 2018 which serves to repeal and replace the Prison Ordinance and takes into account modern rehabilitation and corrective practices. The legislation which was piloted by Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn attracted a spirited debate in the House of Assembly which spanned a few days.

When the floor was opened for debate on 2 October a number of legislators lent their voices to the discussion with suggestions such as the changing of the name from a prison to a correctional center.

In his contribution, Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Ronnie Skelton expressed concern that guard dogs were suggested as a security measure at Her Majesty’s Prison. However, Hon. Skelton said that this is not a suggestion that he takes mildly. “I just look at some of these dreadful things that I see on television where they use dogs to really hurt people and they call it ‘appropriate force’. I think we need to ensure that there are some specific (circumstances) you can use the dogs in the law,” the Health Minister said.

Additionally, Hon. Skelton said that he was uncomfortable about the suggestion that inmates could be asked for blood, urine, and other biometric data. This, he said, can include semen sample, and that Hon. Skelton said is going too far: “I think when you go as far as to say ‘semen’, I think you are really going too far and that needs some court order or something. I think that is a step too far,” Hon. Skelton declared.

Should the Prison Portfolio Be Moved?

During the debate Opposition Member and Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser suggested that the responsibility for Her Majesty’s Prison should not fall under the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Hon. Fraser stressed that his suggestion had nothing to do with the current Minister for Education, but he said that he believes that the fact that the Education Ministry is tasked with a lot at this time there may not be sufficient focus on the prison.

“If there was ever a time when the Premier of this country should have re-examined that position that he took or met where the prison is under the Ministry of Education and Culture, it is now. I think that the Minister for Education and Culture … should devote all his time to education given the state of our education system right now; vis-à-vis the physical structure of our school,” the Opposition Member said.

The suggestion that the prison should be moved was touched on by Sixth District Representative, Hon. Alvera Maduro-Caines who stated it is a view that she has long held.

During her contribution to the debate the Sixth District Representative said: “I guess the Premier has his views why it was put under the Ministry of Education, which I have no problem.”

“As long as the issues in the prison are being sorted out, I don’t have an issue with which ministry it should be under. But, my preference, I thought that it would be better under [the Ministry of]Health. Minister of Education, not that you’re not doing a good job,” Hon. Maduro-Caines stated. The Sixth District Representative also said that she wished to see a discontinuance of the word ‘prisoners’.  Instead it was suggested that a term such as inmate was better suited.

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