Support for Govt’s prison plan

A local non-governmental organization (NGO) which assists people who have been incarcerated, as well as their children and their families, has thrown its support behind a Freundel Stuart administration proposal to reduce the prison population.

Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite

Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite has revealed that he was examining the relevant legislation to facilitate the implementation of electronic devices that would allow for home confinement for some offenders.

The near 30-year-old Prison Fellowship Barbados has welcomed the announcement, contending that electronic tagging was a positive step which would benefit both the offender and the country.

“I think that electronic monitoring serves a purpose. One, it saves the taxpayers money because you don’t have to house them and feed them while they are up there waiting for the case to come up. If they have jobs and the people who hire them still want to keep them employed, they would still be able to make a contribution to their upkeep and to their families,” chairman of the Prison Fellowship Win Callender told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.

“It gives them, as I said before, that opportunity to continue working, but if they were involved in regular crime, they probably wouldn’t qualify for electronic monitoring. So I would imagine they would have to have particular things that they would do that would qualify them for electronic monitoring.”

Callender, whose organization pursues prison reform, rehabilitation and restorative justice, said he did not anticipate that the authorities would allow murder-accused the benefit of
house arrest.

“So you would have to look at what crimes, if you may use that word, they have committed, in order to get the benefits of the electronic monitoring. It has worked in a number of states in the United States. It is something I can’t see at this point, any real negative fallout. I can see benefits to the public purse . . . you don’t have to feed them, as I reiterate; you don’t have to keep them, you don’t have to have special guards to look after them,” said Callender, whose non-profit NGO is a member of Prison Fellowship International.

In addition, he said there were special rehabilitation programmes being undertaken at Dodds for persons currently on remand so that when they are released, they should be able to re-adjust into mainstream society.

Last month Guyana’s president David Granger pardoned 11 inmates, all of them women, so they could spend Christmas with their families, having previously pardoned 40 petty criminals during the country’s 49th anniversary
of independence.

In Antigua and Barbuda, the Gaston Browne administration has also said it plans to release scores of prisoners early this year, a practice that is not new to St John’s or the Caribbean.

Callender recommended that Barbados should also consider early release of convicts to help ease the crowded prison, although he said it must be done carefully because some people who have been pardoned have returned to a life of crime.

“To give pardon to a prisoner is not a new concept. Guyana has been doing that. All of the people in Guyana might not agree with it and you might never have everybody who is happy with things that are done.

“Giving pardon to prisoners has to go along with other things; and you have to look at who would be given pardon, why they would be given that pardon.
You would have to have some organization or board set up, so that you do the due diligence. You check them out and make sure that they could benefit from being given pardon,” he told Barbados TODAY.

The Prison Fellowship chairman said he was aware of the pubic concerns that “people kill people and out walking around”, but contended that people change for the better.

“There are some people that did things . . . when they might not have been as mature as they are now. So when a fellow did a thing at a particular time, it doesn’t necessarily mean you must keep him in prison if he was sentenced to prison for 15 years. . . . Early release could be after five years, maybe,” Callender stressed.

In explaining his rationale for electronic monitoring, Brathwaite argued that jail ought to be reserved for the most serious offenders and used only when there are no other options.  He also said he would consider enhanced rehabilitation programmes to help slash the number of prisoners.

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