Conjugal visits won’t turn prisons into brothels
By CAROL MATROO Monday, June 18 2012
If Commissioner of Prisons Martin Martinez has his way, however, conjugal visits will be allowed at the country’s prisons.
During the Prison Fellowship TT’s Father’s Day reunion at the Maximum Security Prison, Golden Grove, Arouca, on Saturday, Martinez said he has been working on the matter.
Inmates met with their families ahead of Father’s Day which was observed yesterday.
Cabinet approved new prison rules to allow for the granting of conjugal rights to certain prisoners earlier this year, a move initiated by Justice Minister Herbert Volney.
The Minister had stressed that the new policy provided for “a detailed system of communication and visits, which will allow prisoners to communicate with their family, friends and attorneys, including the use of telephone and video visits as well as conjugal and private family visits for convicted criminals who meet eligibility criteria.”
Martinez said on Saturday he has been working on the matter with the Ministry of National Security.
“My pet peeve is that people are reacting to conjugal rights like it is a brothel or a hotel, which is not so. The whole process will have to be properly managed. When the time comes the checks and balances would be in place. It is not wine and wine. It is about a man taking some self esteem and responsibility, a sense of parenting and giving them that sense of themselves again,” Martinez said.
He said when men are incarcerated for whatever crime, they give up all that they are accustomed to, remarking, “In jail they tell you when to eat, when to sleep, when to bathe, when to get up, and after ten years of that you have to find yourself ... we have to help you find yourself.”
Martinez said common-law relationships should also apply to visitations but common-law spouses would have to prove they were committed to the relationship with the prisoner.
“People have to be disciplined, show respect for authority, show over the years that they have good behaviour ... Show that they are mentally, psychologically able,” he said.
“It’s not like you are going to a brothel room ... no, no, no. It is no half an hour thing, you come here to spend time with your family. It is more about bonding with your family. Your wife would be there to cook a meal for you, ... she can cook a meal for you, watch some television.”
The commissioner said with the right rules and regulations in place, conjugal visits are possible.
He noted, however, that there are other issues that need to be addressed in the nation’s prisons.
“We have issues with gang management, inter-gang warfare. It has sort of subsided over the last few months, but there are issues we have to deal with from time to time. We have to separate inmates from each other and identify who is from which gang and so on,” he said
Martinez said infrastructure was also an issue as the prisons were overcrowded.
“We are in the process of finalising plans to upgrade maximum security prisons. Carrera kitchen has been rebuilt and is 80 per cent complete. Similar excercises have taken place at the Port-of-Spain Prison and there have been moves to improve the Golden Grove Maximum Security Prison,” he said.
Martinez also noted that the facilities at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institute were just half way completed and had about 100 inmates at this time.