Don’t jail them

Party leaders opposed to imprisoning those who owe maintenance

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Opposition Leader Mia Mottley today agreed that people who owe maintenance and other debt should not be imprisoned when they do not pay up.

The two expressed similar views as they contributed to debate on the Maintenance (Amendment) Bill 2014 in Parliament today.

Mottley called for a review of the Debtors Act which was passed in the 19th century, insisting that it was outdated.

Opposition Leader  Mia Mottley.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley.

Mottley said authorities also had to take into consideration the current unemployment situation in Barbados.

“It was clear to me that the Act was passed at a time when it contemplated not ongoing maintenance payments but a single debt . . . Because the legislation is ill-suited to a modern Barbados where the debt is incurred on a weekly and monthly basis, we have a practice where people are picked up for arrears and taken straight to Dodds without any determination of their capacity to pay,” she said.

“More than 15,000 persons have lost jobs in this society during the last five or so years. You cannot assume that because arrears have accumulated that is because the people have the money to pay. In fact, I would assume that it is because they cannot pay, not that they will not pay . . . No one should go to prison because of an inability to pay a debt.”

Mottley insisted that debt was a reality in Barbados under the current economic circumstances while noting that many people faced time in prison not only for arrears in maintenance but also for failure to meet their hire purchase commitments.

Contributing to the debate later in the evening, the Prime Minister expressed similar sentiments.

“I do not think –– have not thought for a long time –– that men hiding about from marshals of the court is a credible or sustainable solution to the problem with which we are dealing,” Stuart said.

“I do not believe that it helps any child. Sometimes children actually become bitter with their mothers for putting their fathers in a position where they have to go to prison to spend time for not paying maintenance. I do not think any child likes to have it said about their father that he went to prison for anything. My views on this extend beyond maintenance for children. I have fundamental problems, as a lawyer, as a politician, as a student of jurisprudence, as a student of philosophy, with anybody having to go to prison for debt. We have to look at the law related to that and come to some sane conclusions on it,” he insisted.

However, Stuart dismissed Opposition claims that the situation with dead-beat fathers was a problem found only in countries experiencing recession.

He pointed out that fathers owing CAN$3.2 billion (BDS$5.6 billion) in maintenance was a big controversy in Canada.

“So this is not a Barbadian problem. This is a problem that affects societies across the Western world.”

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9 Responses to Don’t jail them

  1. Veronica Straker
    Veronica Straker November 8, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Ms. Mottley has no children and Mr. Stuart has a grown daughter, both of these people are financially strong and safe. Hundreds of children in Barbados go hungry both day and night because many men refuse to live up to their parental obligation.
    Only he who feels it knows it Lord.

  2. Shirley Haynes-Johnson
    Shirley Haynes-Johnson November 8, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Don’t blame it on government because people lost their jobs this was happening for years

  3. linda freeman November 8, 2014 at 10:07 am

    I agree totally that it makes no sense to imprison someone for nonpayment of any debt. Now assume that person is working they can garnish their salaries, this is one solution. If you go and imprison that person their job is lost because if they haven’t turn up for work in six weeks who employer would condone that, so therefore the person goes further in debt after having losing his/her job, find another solution. Yes they are some unscrupulous persons that just wont pay but if you see the person trying to make an effort you should be able to work with them things hard and getter harder.

  4. Anthony Wiggins November 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    There has to be a penalty for the refusal by some fathers to pay child support… consider the mothers who would stand in a queue in the court yard only to be disappointed when these fathers have failed to pay the monies due. Some fathers are of the belief that they are giving the “child mother” money that she may spend on her “new man” and some fathers simply do not care about the welfare of their child. I have overheard some men who “brag” about the fact that “she gotta ask for the money or she ain’t getting none” ~ others demand sexual favors from their “child mothers” even if they are no longer in a relationship with the child’s father. Some fathers whose contributions are in arrears will simply prefer to serve the jail time… and my question is, “Is the debt cancelled once the father has served the time in jail ??? The system should be based on ability to pay and if the father has any assets they should be sold to obtain the monies due. I disagree with mothers who refuse to place the delinquent fathers in the arms of the law and my basis for this belief is that both parents participate in the cause of birth… if the mother does not need or want the money that is due, they need to be mindful that it belongs to the child and can simply be saved on the credit union for the child’s education or whatever circumstance arises.

  5. Ormond Mayers November 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I totally agree incarcerating persons for they inability to
    pay a debt is a punishment that adds more stress
    and pain and achieve nothing.

  6. James howard November 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    This is one of the best thing I’ve heard from the political parties in Barbados, Jail is a harsh punishment for anyone especially when children are better off when fathers aren’t locked up.
    Please sort this problem, ever who changes this law will get my vote and thousands more.

  7. Darnley Sandiford November 9, 2014 at 3:47 am

    When the fathers are sent to prison,who pays the child money,also you and I the tax payers still have to feed them.smh.

  8. Jeanette Howarth November 9, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Its a difficult situation to deal with wherever you are. Personally, it should be dealt with on a case by case basis & a judgement made on whether a person ‘cant pay or wont pay’. If they cant pay because they dont have a job is one thing but if they wont pay for whatever reason then the 2 should be dealt with differently.

  9. Camille Weekes November 9, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    I agree with Ormond…though for many years now men have been laughing at the idea of prison for such things because in the end the money still doesn’t come forth. I am a single mother…


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