Inmates get more time for ganja

Magistrate sends message: ‘Don’t do drugs in prison’

Six men had extra time added to the sentences they are serving after they admitted that they had ganja inside Her Majesty’s Prison at Northward. 

They appeared separately before Magistrate Valdis Foldats in Summary Court on Tuesday, but each heard a similar message: “We have a significant problem with drugs in prison … I’m sentencing you to one month consecutive to send a message to the prison population … We’ve got to stop drug use in prison.” 

In some cases, the defendant said he had already been punished by prison authorities. 

Joseph Vandell Hurlston pleaded guilty to possessing 1.94 grams of ganja on 13 November, 2012. He told the court he had lost 50 days remission, referring to the earned time off for good behaviour.  

The magistrate asked if he could get it back. 

Defence attorney John Furniss advised, “Once the remission goes, it’s gone.” A prison officer said inmates can write to the director and ask for it to be reinstated if they have been clean (drug-free) and well-behaved for a certain period. He agreed with Mr. Furniss that the matter remained discretionary. 

Hurlston received one month consecutive to his current sentence. He asked if he would get remission on that month and was told it would be added to his sentence and then a recalculation done at the prison. 

Thomas Watson admitted having 6.3 ounces at the prison on 8 October. He said he had already been charged for it at the prison. Asked what his penalty was, Watson said he had been working outside the prison but had now lost that privilege. He also received one month consecutive. 

Dorian Dolan Hunter pleaded guilty to having 1.74 ounces on 16 May last year. Crown Counsel Candia James said guards discovered it in the pillow in Hunter’s cell. He also received one month consecutive. 

Christopher Kevin Ebanks got his extra month for the .286 gram he had last 10 October. When interviewed, he said he was tempted to smoke it, but was caught by a prison guard before he did so. 

He told the court he had received no internal punishment and his earliest release date was 31 August, 2014. 

“I want to say thank you for your guilty plea,” the magistrate told him. “I am sentencing you to one month additional because I want you and other inmates to understand – stop doing drugs. If you get caught, you’re going to get an extra bit onto your sentence. If you get caught again, you’ll probably get longer. You don’t want to do that,” he urged. 

Shawn Barnes told the court he was supposed to go home next month after doing all his time. He said he had already worked with re-entry sentence planning. He pleaded guilty to possession of .951 of a gram on 22 October. Guards had found it in his cell under the mattress of the top bunk, which was where he slept. 

“I’m trying to be consistent,” the magistrate told him. He had sentenced others to one month consecutive, but they all had longer sentences yet to serve. “I think it’s different when people are near their release, so I’m cutting it in half.” The sentence was therefore two weeks consecutive. 

Levi Powell pleaded guilty to having 84.6 grams on 23 November. He told the court he was due to be released on Saturday – just five days away. He said he had already been punished by being removed from the privileged block and that had prevented him from getting parole in January. 

Ms James said Powell had been seen standing near a gate to the exercise field unsupervised. When an officer asked what he was doing there, he did not answer. The officer called for another guard to approach and as he did so, Powell threw something over the fence. It was recovered and found to be a package of ganja. 

The magistrate asked if Ms James wanted time to check Powell’s account of his time in custody, but she accepted the information he had provided. The magistrate then noted that Powell had been severely punished by losing parole. 

He took that into account and passed a sentence of one week concurrent. He said he didn’t want to interfere with the release date, but this might add a day or two to time in custody. He congratulated Powell on plans he had made for after release. 

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