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Security ministry to make greater use of space in island's prisons

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) –The Ministry of National Security will be making more efficient use of space in the island’s correctional service.
This was disclosed by portfolio Minister, Robert Montague, during an interactive session with heads of the security forces at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston yesterday.
“We are going to be rationalising the prison population and moving some (prisoners), out of Tower Street especially, into other institutions, if the risk assessment says that they can be moved,” he said.
The minister said there is no overpopulation in the island’s prison system, noting that the inmate population is 3,611 and there is capacity to accommodate to 3,687 prisoners.
“We still have some space, but it is only two institutions, Tower Street and St. Catherine, where the courts can send convicts. Richmond is underserved, New Broughton is underserved and Tamarind Farm is underserved,” he pointed out.
The minister informed that an exercise to reclassify inmates has been completed, which will, among other things, allow the authorities to electronically monitor low-risk offenders and have them serve their sentences under house arrest.
“Those with less than six months or are low-risk offenders, it is better to send them back home to begin the process of reintegration into (the) society,” he contended, adding that the families of the offenders would be asked to finance the monitoring.
In the meantime, Montague has defended the Government’s decision to turn down the United Kingdom’s (UK) offer to assist in the building of a new maximum-security prison in Jamaica.
He said the decision reaffirms the Government’s stance that the money would be better spent on educational institutions.
“Every independent sovereign country will do things in their best interest, and Jamaica must do the same. We would have to find £32 million to match the £25 million (that was offered); we cannot afford it at this time,” he said.
Montague said that while the country’s correctional institutions need upgrading, the offer from the UK is not in the best interest of the Jamaican people at this time.
“Britain remains our friend and our partner in the security industry, because we still work together,” he said.
The previous Administration and the UK Government had signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), under which the British Government would have contributed £25 million towards building the facility.