Freedom for 30 more prisoners
By ANDRE BAGOO Saturday, August 4 2012
THE MERCY Committee will meet on Monday to choose 30 more prisoners to be freed in commemoration of this year’s observance of the 50th Anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence.
Newsday understands that the Committee recently approved 20 candidates to be submitted to President George Maxwell Richards for pardon, and on Monday will continue the process of screening candidates. Some prisoners have already been pardoned and released, ahead of August 31.
The Cabinet recently announced the State will free 50 prisoners to commemorate the anniversary.
The Mercy Committee is a standing, Constitutional committee, currently chaired by Minister of Justice Herbert Volney. Ex officio members include: the Attorney General; the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); and four other members appointed by the President from a wide cross-section of civil society.
Contacted yesterday, Volney confirmed Monday’s meeting Mercy Committee, which is formally known as the Advisory Committee on the Power of Pardon. He said, however, that a full list of persons pardoned will not be made public. “The list is not going to be made public,” he said. He assured that all 50 prisoners will not be released simultaneously.
“The persons will be released incrementally to protect the privacy of the inmates who are trying to resettle,” he said. “These are persons who have been rehabilitated. They are not all murderers. One or two are blind and some are mortally ill.”
The Ministry of Justice on Tuesday published the criteria to be considered by the Committee. Inmates who may be given consideration for early release must be:
-First time offenders whose conduct, behaviour and discipline are exemplary;
-Persons who have committed non-violent offences, and do not display any violent propensities;
-Prisoners who are not likely to re-offend, or pose any risk to society;
-Prisoners who have committed minor offences, and are currently serving sentences of two to four years;
-Prisoners who are chronically ill;
-Prisoners who are near their remission date with a remainder of at least three months, or who have completed two thirds of their sentence;
-Prisoners who have participated successfully in the rehabilitation programmes offered;
-Old and/or infirm prisoners;
-Prisoners who have existing family, or other support structures available upon release;
-Prisoners who, if released, “would not cause a public outcry”.
Volney said several candidates submitted to the Mercy Committee have already been rejected.
“Many proposals have been rejected by the committee,” he said. “The submissions are being scrutinised.”
Submissions may be made to the Ministry of Justice. Volney would not disclose how many prisoners have been released thus far, but he said there will be more releases on August 31.