Prison inmate gets two more years for ganja

An inmate of Northward Prison since 2010, Dean Ronald Bailey had two more years added to his sentences on Monday after pleading guilty to possessing ganja with intent to supply within the prison. 

Bailey, 28, initially claimed that he was threatened and forced to retrieve a bag thrown into the prison compound on Dec. 22, 2013. 

However, Crown counsel Candia James advised that almost half of the packages of ganja inside the bag had Bailey’s name on them. Other packages were labeled with the names of different prisoners, she said. 

The offense was discovered when a prison officer was monitoring CCTV and noticed a strange object around the fence area. Other officers went to investigate and saw a prisoner carrying a bag and climbing into the exercise field from the sterile area [inside the perimeter fence]. The bag contained several packages wrapped in tape. When analyzed, the packages were found to contain 2.09 pounds or .95 kilo of ganja, Ms. James said. 

When interviewed, Bailey admitted only to recovering the ganja from the ground. He maintained that other prisoners had threatened him if he did not get it. 

Magistrate Valdis Foldats pointed out that Bailey was getting the greater share of the ganja, based on the number of packages that had his name on them. “Doesn’t that remove the element of threat?” he asked. 

Defense attorney John Furniss said his instructions were that, although Bailey’s name was on packages, not all of them were destined for him; some of them were to be collected by other inmates. 

The magistrate said he could not accept that. Bailey was not a stranger to the commercial movement of drugs, he noted. 

Ms. James reviewed the defendant’s record. In 2010, Bailey was sentenced to three-and-a-half years for importing cocaine. In 2011, he received a nine-month consecutive sentence for an assault in the prison. In 2012, he received another 32-month consecutive sentence for causing grievous bodily harm to a prison guard. In 2013, he received a one-month consecutive sentence for possession of ganja. 

Mr. Furniss submitted that Bailey did not want to get involved in anything illegal because he was coming up for parole. “He does have a checkered history,” the attorney agreed. For that reason, Bailey was protecting himself; if he reported wrong-doing he was opening himself up to retribution: “The officers can’t protect prisoners 24 hours a day,” he commented. 

The magistrate asked Bailey if he wanted to say anything. Bailey told the court, “I’m finding it difficult to do the time … I get more sentence within the prison than outside the prison.” He pointed out that, as a Jamaican, he did not have family on island to visit him or bring him things. He also asked the court to look at a photo of a wound he had received to his face at the hands of another prisoner. 

In passing sentence, the magistrate said this was a very serious matter, given the quantity. It was clear there had been significant organization, with names on packages, quantities, the timing of the delivery. “It’s clear he was part of the enterprise,” the magistrate said of Bailey. 

He quoted local and U.K. authorities that point out how drugs in prison, even soft drugs, are used to extort or bully: “The evil they do is even worse than the evil done within our open society.”  

From another precedent, he adopted the reasoning: “Drugs are more valuable in prison than on the street; they are a form of currency … They can be responsible for injury to persons, particularly prison staff. Such offenses are too prevalent and require the imposition of deterrent sentences … despite the mitigation which may exist for the offender.”  

In sentencing an offender last year, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn said access to drugs undermined the proper running of the prison and the rule of law.  

She stated: “Here in our own jurisdiction, it has become well known that drug abuse is rampant at Northward Prison.” She said that state of affairs was the direct result of actions by people such as the defendant before her, whom she sentenced to one year in prison for possession with intent to supply ganja.  

In this week’s case, Magistrate Foldats said prisoners are just as culpable as those people supplying it from outside. “The court must send a clear message to people outside and the prisoners themselves,” he stated. With one-third discount, he imposed a two-year consecutive sentence. For possession of another package containing 0.01 ounce of ganja, the sentence was one-month, concurrent. 

When interviewed, Bailey admitted only to recovering the ganja from the ground. He maintained that other prisoners had threatened him if he did not get it.