KINGSTON, Jamaica — People’s National Party (PNP) spokesman on national security Peter Bunting says replacing the country’s two main prisons is a matter of national security.
“It is a matter of national security, and public dignity that Jamaica pursues a modern, and highly functional correctional system to replace our two ageing facilities,” Bunting said while making his Sectoral Debate presentation in Parliament Tuesday.
He said the need for a modern, purpose-built prison to improve the conditions under which inmates are held has long been recognised, however, budgetary constraints and competing priorities such as education, health and vital infrastructural development have prevented successive governments from solving the problem of the deteriorating conditions in major correctional facilities.
“Jamaica has a prison population of around 3,900, 70 per cent of whom are low to medium risk, serving sentences of between three months to three years. It is therefore not in the country’s best interest to hold these inmates, mostly young men, in subhuman conditions where they become hardened and eventually return to society, posing a greater safety and security risk,” he said.
He explained that the island’s two principal correctional facilities — Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre and the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre — built in the 1600s and 1800s respectively are deteriorating.
“They are falling apart, and are highly susceptible to natural disasters with great potential for injury, loss of life, and liability to the State,” Bunting insisted, adding, “the staff who work at these institutions are also exposed to these risks”.
“The Ministry of National Security engaged the UK Government in negotiations across three administrations, 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 (PTA) that was proposed by the UK Government. The JLP opposed this initiative. Therefore, I expect to hear from the minister in his sectoral presentation, the progress of his plans to build a new prison” he said.