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Prison rules in place since 1974

SOSUEME-1We love to blame the absence of rules for our failure to act –– even when there are rules in place –– and speak erroneously but with authority.

For instance, there are rules governing the operation of Her Majesty’s Prisons, which have been in place since 1974. The said rules address the general treatment of prisoners, accommodation, reception, removal, discharge and death of prisoners, discipline, religion, education and welfare, and so on and so forth. The rules also outline the general governance framework for prison officers.

First, Rule 133 provides that “every prison officer shall be provided with a copy of these rules and shall be required to make himself familiar therewith”; and news reports provided confirm that the powers that be see to it such provision does take place. There is therefore no excuse for breach.

Rule 135 further provides that “every prison officer shall conform with these rules and with the regulations of the prison and shall assist the officer-in-charge in the maintenance thereof”. As if that was not enough “every prison officer shall make immediate report to the officer-in-charge or to the senior prison officer on duty of any abuses, impropriety or breach of these rules which may come to his knowledge”.

Against that backdrop we address the question of prison officers marrying, consorting or otherwise fraternizing with anyone who has been a guest of Her Majesty.

Rule 142 provides that “a prison officer shall not knowingly communicate or associate with an ex-prisoner, or with the friends and relatives of a prisoner or ex-prisoner except with the permission of the officer-in-charge”. It therefore beggars belief that the chief legal officer of this country can with a straight face inform the public that in essence there are no rules to govern such situations and we now need to get some.

That being said, the Prison Rules are a matter of internal discipline for the Superintendent of Prisons and his superiors to deal with. I have no idea how the police could possibly be investigating the matter or questioning anyone as a result.

In condensed form please find outlined, the rights, duties and responsibilities of a prison officer as contained in the rules:

1. Obey the lawful instructions of the officer-in-charge;

2. Not to receive personal visitors at the prison without permission;

  3. Not force an ill prisoner to work;

  4. Be responsible for the care of tools and other prison property in his charge and obtain receipt for any articles loaned out;

  5. Check prisoners and hand over to relieving officer before going off duty;

  6. Not to make unauthorised communications to the Press in relation to prisoners or prison matters;

  7. Not engage in any other trade or business without the minister’s permission;

  8. Attend “divine service” with the prisoners unless excused by the Officer-in-charge;

  9. Not be absent without leave;

10. Keep keys issued to him in his possession at all times while on duty and not to take any such keys outside the prison;

11. Not leave his post unless relieved by another officer or ordered to do so by the officer-in-charge;

12. Maintain order and discipline amongst those in custody;

13. Be properly shaved and dressed while on duty and “not wear civilian clothing together with his uniform”;

14. Avoid “wrangling and disputing” with other prison officers on “matters of duty or private matters; such matters are to be addressed by a complaint in writing to the officer-in-charge;

15. Report “the character and habits of every prisoner under his charge” which in his opinion are “likely to cause any breach of prison discipline”;

16. Report the amount of work done by each prisoner;

17. Count the prisoners at “locking and unlocking time” and report on the same;

18. Count and search prisoners on the departure from and return to the prison to ensure that they have not received unauthorized articles or communications;

19. Not have any interest in any contract for the supply of goods to the prison or receive any fee from any person with an interest in such a contract;

20. Not carry out with permission from the superintendent any “pecuniary or business transaction with or on behalf of a prisoner”;

21. Not receive money, etc. from any visitor to the prison;

22. Not use “tobacco or spirituous liquors” while in charge of a prison gang outside the walls of the prison;

23. May be subjected to a search of his person or his quarters by two persons senior to him in rank;

24. Ensure that articles such as planks, wheelbarrows, ropes, etc. which can be used to facilitate escape from the prison are not left lying around;

25. Not enter prison cells at night except in case of illness or emergency;

26. Entitled to free medical attention from the prison doctor;

27. Entitled to free uniforms and equipment which are to be returned or paid for after service ends;

28. “Repress and prevent” improper communications between prisoners and their visitors, including attorneys-at-law.

We will continue next week with a look at the operations of the prison from the perspective of those on “sabbatical” there.

(Alicia A. Archer is an attorney-at-law.)

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