Categorized | National News

Prison Numbers Swell

Despite recent legislation to help curb the number of people headed to jail, the population at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) continues to swell, according to Prison Superintendent Dr. Elliston Rahming.

It’s something that has Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage seriously concerned.

Dr. Rahming noted that as a result of a compendium of crime laws passed late last year by the Ingraham administration, the prison experienced a deluge of persons being sent to prison as opposed to going on bail.

Dr. Rahming said the move contributed to part of the problem.

“That has significantly bloated our population,” Dr. Rahming told the Journal yesterday.

“Up to October of last year our daily population was around 1,300 and now it’s around 1,550 on a daily basis. Along with the passage of those bills, there now has to be a mechanism by which there can be a greater outflow of persons from prison, small time, minor offenders perhaps or even diversionary programmes away from the prison to community service so forth.”

But Dr. Nottage said he is confident that some of the items in his government’s crime agenda would have a beneficial effect, particularly its Swift Justice initiative, which seeks to ensure that people are brought to trial much more rapidly than they are now.

After receiving an extensive tour of the Fox Hill compound yesterday, Dr. Nottage lamented the inadequate housing conditions of the inmates, which he said is no longer acceptable.

“The very large number of persons who are on remand is far in excess of those who are actually sentenced and incarcerated…and to note that in spite of the electronic monitoring which enables additional people to get bail, overcrowding hasn’t gotten any better,” Dr. Nottage said.

About four to six inmates are forced to share a cell designed only for one or two people.

In fact, Dr. Rahming said the number of inmates locked away in maximum security wing is double the maximum capacity.

The wing is designed to hold 450 people but 800 plus people are actually accommodated there.

The national security minister also expressed serious concerns over the length of time people on remand have been at the prison without having had a trial.

He admitted that “it is a problem that we have to contend with.”

Noting the challenges he found yesterday, Minister Nottage said his job is to now find the resources to assist the prison to improve its conditions. He said $600,000 is needed to fix the roof in the Maximum Security unit.

He assured, however, that his government is prepared to invest what is needed.

Nevertheless Minister Nottage did acknowledge that he was pleased with the progress made over the years like the physical changes and the introduction of many innovative rehabilitation programmes.

He also said that he was pleased that the remand system was working very well and commented on the modern health facility in the maximum security area.

Minister Nottage applauded Dr. Rahming for running a very progressive institution.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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