Ministry to tackle prison corruption

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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The Ministry of National Security has indicated that it intends to carry out a security assessment of the country’s correctional system in a move to strengthen internal controls of all prisons, and tackle corruption and other criminal activities within correctional facilities.


The announcement comes days after Opposition spokeswoman on youth and culture Lisa Hanna spoke out against the recording of music from a prison cell by murder convict, dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel, and others. She suggested that the material should be banned from the airwaves because of their violent and sexually explicit nature.


Hanna questioned whether corruption played a role in the production of music by the entertainer, whose given name is Adidja Palmer, from behind bars. Her comments created a firestorm on social media with some people threatening to physically harm the member of parliament.


Yesterday, the state minister for national security, Pearnel Charles Jnr, issued a release outlining the proposed security measures which he said are to come, including "clarifying the conditions under which music is recorded by inmates in maximum security facilities".


He said, too, that there will be changes to legislation and procedures to ensure accountability and enforcement, and that X-ray scanning machines will be installed at Tower Street and St Catherine adult correctional centres, as well as the Horizon Adult Remand Centre.


The security ministry is also promising to use metal detectors and new entry management protocols, polygraph all inmates and rezone spaces in all prisons, as well as expand closed-circuit television (CCTV) coverage across the system and enhance the use of cellular jamming technology.


Charles said the authorities would be pushing to stamp out the smuggling of mobile phones and other contraband.


"It is unacceptable that breaches continue year after year and it is time to draw a line in the sand… what now exists is a dysfunctional system, where we have to contend with contraband entering our correctional facilities and the allegations of complicity of our staff in this matter," he said, noting that four correctional officers are now before the courts on charges related to "corruptive dealings with inmates", while other officers have been removed from their posts "for alleged unprofessional conduct".


Hanna faced vicious backlash on social media, escalating to the level of violent threats on her life. But on Monday, she made it clear that she would not back down, and renewed her stance, maintaining that data confirm that violent and sexually explicit lyrics have negatively influenced Jamaican youth through increased feelings of hostility.


"The disgusting comments on my social media pages exposed the dark and vitriolic underbelly of this new normal and justified the point I was making. The undisguised violence and vulgarity of the disagreements posted and the sheer volume of anti-social attitudes were like megaphones screaming at Jamaicans to wake up and smell the decay into which Jamaica’s proud history of decency and mutual respect has plummeted," she stated.


The Opposition People’s National Party has condemned the threats against Hanna, pointing out that while it respects the rights of people to their own opinions on the issue, it is unacceptable to resort to threats. The police also said they had launched investigations into the threats against the parliamentarian.


For years there has been speculation as to whether Vybz Kartel’s new music, for which he continues to receive popular local awards as well as steady fixture on local music countdown charts, were pre-recorded or are being manufactured from prison. In May 2014, Palmer and his three co-accused were convicted for the 2011 murder of promoter Clive "Lizard" Williams and sentenced to life. The entertainer will be eligible for parole after serving 35 years.

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