AG tours East Prison
Monday, January 20 2014
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SUNDAY TOUR: Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, 2nd from left, speaks to Justice Minister Emmanuel George, left, while Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonil...
ATTORNEY General Anand Ramlogan yesterday led a high powered delegation of Government Ministers on a visit to the Santa Rosa Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre (ECRC). Also on the tour were Minister of Justice Emmanuel George and Minister of Housing Dr Roodal Moonilal.
Yesterday’s visit comes on the eve of the historic debate on the Bail Amendment Bill which will deny bail for a minimum of 120 days to a person who was already convicted and served his time for a violent, dangerous and serious crime. This Bill was passed in the House of Representatives last Friday. The Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) whose members have claimed to be willing to work with Government on measures to alleviate crime, voted against the Bill which was passed via simple majority.
The Bill is scheduled to be debated in the Senate tomorrow where it will require a special constitutional majority and hence Government needs support of the independent senators.
“This visit was in response to concerns raised with respect to overcrowding in prisons in light of the fact that the ‘One Strike and You’re Out’ Bail Amendment law will lead to an increase in the number of incarcerations of repeat offenders as they will be denied bail.
“I was extremely impressed with the facilities. The prison has a modern design and layout which includes classroom facilities, spacious cells, proper airing and exercise amenities along with entertainment.
“The prison can comfortably house over 400 prisoners and the present occupancy rate is 137. Additional prisons can be easily constructed as the facility is favourably configured for that kind of accommodation. Over 1,200 additional prisoners can be easily housed,” Ramlogan added.
In addition, he said, Government has agreed to acquire the adjacent property which is currently used for warehousing. A large building is already in existence with over four acres of covered space. “I am advised that the integrity of the structure is solid and it can accommodate two storeys. This will give over eight acres of covered space that can be easily converted to prisons. In the long term, this can be converted into a remand facility and replace the Port-of-Spain prison. I am quite satisfied therefore that the capacity in our prisons is not an issue and that the legitimate concern about over-crowding will be addressed.”
Ramlogan indicated he was looking forward to the debate in the Senate tomorrow and was cautiously optimistic about receiving support from the independent bench, “The legislation is long overdue and much-needed as the time had come to rebalance the scales of justice and not simply concentrate on the rights of prisoners but also on the rights of innocent law-abiding citizens.”