Gov’t moves to ease prison overcrowding

JAMAICA – The Ministry of National Security has begun transferring inmates to the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre, Spanish Town, St. Catherine, in an effort to cut down on overcrowding at the island’s two main maximum security prisons.

Dr. Peter Phillips, Minister of National Security, announced yesterday that “a decision has been taken to expand the existing facility at Tamarind Farm,” in order to address the concerns at the Tower Street and St. Catherine Adult Correctional Facilities.

Dr. Phillips was making his contribution to the 2005/2006 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives.

Yesterday Gilbert Scott, Permanent Secretary in the National Security Ministry, told The Gleaner that the expansion at Tamarind Farm has already started and some prisoners have already been moved.

But the transfer of inmates to Tamarind Farm is expected to be only for the short term, as Dr. Phillips said plans are under way for the construction of a modern correctional facility which is to include the infrastructure necessary for the proper rehabilitation of inmates.

“Quite frankly, conditions in the existing facilities do not assist the process of rehabilitation, nor do they assist us in safekeeping,” Minister Phillips said.

According to the 2004 Social and Economic Survey Jamaica, there were 3,948 inmates in Adult Correctional Centres islandwide, 1,248 above the ideal capacity.

At the Tower Street Facility, downtown Kingston, where the ideal capacity is 650, there were 1,642 inmates. At the St. Catherine prison, where the ideal capacity is 850, there were 1,338 inmates.

The National Security Ministry is currently in the process of acquiring the site for the construction of the new prison.

“A review of two proposals is also being undertaken after which the necessary financial arrangements will be negotiated,” the National Security Minister said.

Dr. Phillips, turning to the attempted escape at the Tower Street prison last month, said he had received a preliminary report on the incident, but he did not provide much detail.

“A number of inmates had weapons in their possession. Shots were fired by inmates at Correctional Officers. Correc-tional Officers resisted attempts to disarm them and several rounds were fired,” Dr. Phillips said.

He added that it was clear that further investigations are needed, and that he was waiting to receive a final report which will be presented to Cabinet and then the public.

During the attempted jailbreak on March 31, one correctional officer and three inmates were killed.

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