• peter-bunting_11

    Prison deal will only be signed after public education, says Bunting

    Jamaica Observer

    October 06, 2015

    KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – Minister of National Security Peter Buntings says the Government will only sign the Prisoner Transfer Agreement with the United Kingdom (UK), after adequate public education and debate, and the enactment of new legislation in the Jamaican Parliament.

    “In fact, we will start this process with the establishment of a Special Select Committee that will receive written and oral submissions on this issue by technical experts and all interested parties, including civil society and the Diaspora,” he said.

    In a statement to the House of Representatives today, the minister further noted that House Leader, Phillip Paulwell, will shortly bring a Resolution to establish the Special Select Committee.

    The Ministry of National Security engaged the UK Government in negotiations for over a year to secure a grant of £25 million towards the construction of a modern maximum security facility, contingent upon the signing of a Prisoner Transfer Agreement that was proposed by the UK Government.

    Only Jamaican citizens who would have been subject to deportation at the end of their sentences will be eligible for transfer to Jamaica. United Kingdom citizens in Jamaican prisons will also be eligible for transfer to the UK.

    “There are hundreds of Jamaicans deported every year to Jamaica, having served prison sentences for drug-related or violent offences in the United States of America or the UK, without the benefit of a structured reintegration process. Accelerating the return of a small percentage of these Jamaicans through a structured rehabilitation and reintegration process is a reasonable trade-off for a dramatic improvement in our prison conditions,” Bunting said.

    He further noted that the Prisoner Transfer Agreement calls for no more than 300 spaces to be reserved in this new prison for Jamaican citizens serving sentences in the UK, and who are subject to deportation at the end of their sentences.

    “In reality, the numbers are likely to be much less. The UK/Nigeria prisoner transfer agreement, which is in its second year, has only transferred one prisoner so far with another 16 in process. Nigeria has a higher number of prisoners in UK prisons than Jamaica,” the minister noted.

    The proposed purpose-built maximum-security prison would accommodate between 1,500 and 2,000 inmates, and would effectively resolve the problems of overcrowding and undesirable conditions, which now obtain at the Tower Street and St Catherine Adult Correctional facilities.

    In addition, Bunting said the Government was also successful in negotiating an additional £5.5 million towards the reintegration and resettlement of prisoners under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement.

    “The cost of rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners returned under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement will not be a burden on the public purse. Under no circumstances would the Prisoner Transfer Agreement be a net cost to Jamaican taxpayers. This can be achieved by limiting the period for which the Prisoner Transfer Agreement would be in effect,” he stated.

    Meanwhile, Bunting informed that an administrative and judicial review process would be in place to determine whether or not to accept each prisoner transfer request.

    He noted that the experience of other countries that have signed the Prisoner Transfer Agreement shows that each case is subject to legal and administrative processes.

    Conditions that may be included in a Prisoner Transfer Agreement are that: the sentenced person is a national of the receiving State; the sentenced person consents to the transfer or is subject to an order for expulsion, deportation or removal from the transferring State; no other legal proceedings relating to the offence or any other offence committed by the sentenced person are pending in the transferring State; the sentence relates to acts which also constitute an offence under the law of the receiving State; and the transferring and receiving States both agree to the transfer.

    “A net financial burden would not be transferred to the receiving country. The Government of Jamaica will have to finalize the cost of the new prison and seek to identify the remaining funds to build the new prison,” Bunting said.

    He noted that the new facility would be designed and constructed with a focus on rehabilitation, which should reduce the current high rates of recidivism.

    The minister further added that downtown Kingston would have the opportunity for the redevelopment of 30 acres of prime waterfront land, while noting that a similar opportunity for redevelopment would be possible in Spanish Town.

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