Prisons law change sought

Bill would make smuggling of any kind illegal

A recommendation by the prison director, Dwight Scott, and his executive board has led to a proposed bill to amend the Prisons Law to create the offence of smuggling and “incidental and connected purposes”.

Currently, those caught bringing contraband into the prison can only be charged with possession of the material in question, and that charge can only be brought in instances where the items are illegal. In circumstances where the contraband is in the form of a cell phone or other items that may not be classed as illegal in the law, the prison itself might have had to imposed its own system of sanctions and punishment, such as terminating a visitor’s and/or prisoner’s privileges.

However, under the proposed bill, the law would be amended to make provision for the word ‘smuggling’ to be inserted as Section 43 B into the Prisons Law. This states that, “Any person who a. brings throws or in any manner introduces or conveys into any prison; b. conveys to any prisoner while in custody outside of a prison; c. with the intent that it shall come into the possession of a prisoner, deposits outside of a prison; or d. carries out of any prison, an article or thing, unless he is authorized to do so by or under this law or by the director, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of fifteen thousand dollars and to imprisonment not exceeding three years, or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

Eric Bush, deputy chief officer in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, said, “The prison director, along with his Executive and the Portfolio, have identified that there could be stronger laws and punishment for acts of taking any kind of contraband into the prison and the Governor in cabinet has also agreed with this.”

He pointed out that lawmakers and officials were constantly looking for strategies and methods of prevention and that this was a more broad approach, which would cover all contraband and not just items that were classed as illegal in the law.

“Previously, someone taking drugs into the prison could only be charged with possession of those drugs, but now the Prisons Law speaks specifically to the entire act of seeking to put any item into the prison that should not be there,” said Mr. Bush, who added that some items are not illegal but are not allowed in a prison.

The bill will be considered at the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly in February.

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