KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica and Britain are in discussions on the transfer of more than 1,000 Jamaicans currently serving time in the United Kingdom prisons.
The issue surfaced yesterday in the British House of Commons after it was revealed that there were two prisons – Bullwood Hall in Essex and Canterbury Prison in Kent – that are currently housing only foreign inmates.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown told Parliament that there were 1,400 Jamaican prisoners in British penal facilities, the highest number of all foreign nationals. Nigeria has 1,000 while Vietnam and China have 400 and 300 nationals, respectively, in British prisons.
“We will sign agreements with those countries so that we can return prisoners from our cells as expeditiously as possible. We will increase the number of foreign national prisoners who are deported from our country,” the British Prime Minister said as he answered questions at Westminster.
The British leader did not say when the agreement to ship Jamaicans to serve their time in their homeland would be concluded, but seemed to suggest negotiations were far advanced.
At present 11,000 of the 81,000 U.K. prison population are foreigners.
“This year, we will deport 4,000 foreign national prisoners. Two years ago it was only 1,500 and last year it was only 2,500,” Prime Minister Brown said.
But there are fears Jamaica’s penal system could be swamped with hundreds of inmates being deported from Britain to complete their sentences in their homeland.
The island’s prisons are already very overcrowded and ground has not yet been broken for construction of the new prison which the previous government announced years ago. Efforts yesterday to reach National Security Minister Derrick Smith were unsuccessful.