|Nottage: Overcrowding worsening at HMP|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Aug 04, 2012
The population of Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) is at its highest point in years, with more than 1,600 inmates currently housed in a facility built to hold far fewer prisoners, revealed National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage outside the House of Assembly on Thursday.
Nottage said the majority of the inmates who are contributing to the prisons’ overcrowding are people who are on remand and not yet convicted of any crime.
“The package of crime [bills] that the FNM passed, some of [the bills] are creating significant problems for us,” Nottage said. “Some of the amendments that have passed have made it either necessary or possible for persons to be incarcerated for crimes that would have normally not have required incarceration.”
Head of the Prison Staff Association Gregory Archer also weighed in on the issue yesterday, claiming officers are being overworked at the prison.
“The workload has increased and it is clear that we have outgrown the prison, especially maximum security. We need for the government to seriously consider building a new maximum security,” Archer said.
“It is a matter of urgency because the nation’s security depends on its prison. We’re exhausted at this point yet we are true patriots to our country. We’re going to do the best that we can but we need the government to quickly intervene and find some ways to [fix] the problem.”
Days after the Progressive Liberal Party won the May 7 general election, Nottage said the Christie administration would review the crime legislation, which came into effect last November. When asked yesterday if the prison overcrowding would give the government reason to hasten its review or repeal those bills Nottage said, “Not at all.”
He added that the government will work on making the country’s court system more efficient so that those charged with crimes are not languishing in HMP before they can get a trial.
“What it is going to cause us to do is...perhaps have discussions with the chief justice in terms of the courts and how quickly they can process cases that come before them with the attorney general to see the extent to which the Swift Justice initiative – which we think is beginning to also have a positive effect – can be made even more efficient and effective,” he said.
“[I will talk] to the commissioner of police and his officers about how the preparation of cases are handled as efficiently as possible so that we can get them before the courts quickly and dispense of them rather than having people locked up in prison sometimes for longer periods on remand than they would serve even if convicted. When you consider that, it’s an issue we need to pay attention to.”