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Govt seeks improved inspection of prisons

By ANDRE BAGOO Wednesday, July 23 2014

MINISTER of Justice, Emmanuel George yesterday asked Parliament to approve legislation to expand the office of Inspector of Prisons to that of Inspectorate of Prisons and add staff including a new position of Deputy Inspector of Prisons.

Amid concern over the quality of detention facilities for youth, George piloted the Miscellaneous Provisions (Prisons) Bill 2014. “One person can no longer address the myriad issues as well as the number of persons on remand,” George said. The Minister added that the prison population stands at 3,176.

He said the inspectorate would have powers to investigate and report on the treatment of prisoners and young offenders as well as complaints made by young offenders. George said the legislation is intended to ensure the State has support staff to enable them to carry out the functions of the inspector fully.

George said the new legislation would also increase penalties for a range of offences involving prisons.

The penalty for aiding a prisoner to escape will move from $400 to $30,000 and seven years jail.

If the person implicated is a member of the Prison Service, Police Service or Defence Force, the penalty moves to $50,000 and ten years imprisonment. The penalty for assaulting a prison officer moves from $1,000 and six months in jail to $15,000 and two years jail. Assaulting the staff of the proposed inspectorate would result in a fine of $15,000 and two years jail. George said the legislation is needed to correct a gap or lacuna which emerged after the shifting of responsibility for prisons to the Ministry of Justice from the Ministry of National Security under the term of the current administration.

The gap occurred in the Mental Health Act which will be re-worded to make clear that the relevant minister with administrative functions under that Act is the Minister of Justice and not the Minister of National Security.

George said new prison rules are due to be tabled in Parliament but did not say when this would happen or when the new rules would be implemented. He said the new legislation would comply with United Nations standards and rules.

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