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New prison bill imbalanced, PSA says

ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
royston@nasguard.com

Published: Oct 16, 2013

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The Correctional Services Bill, which seeks to transform the focus of Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) from incarceration to rehabilitation, appears “imbalanced” with regard to officers, Prison Staff Association (PSA) President Gregory Archer said yesterday.

Archer said the association has no problem with the prison becoming more “inmate friendly”, but prison officers must be given relative consideration.

“To have a sense of balance you have to focus on your staff,” Archer told The Nassau Guardian.

“If your staff are not working in a conducive environment or they are not satisfied with salary and [benefits], then the bill will be imbalanced.

“You will have a disgruntled set of workers.”

The new bill would repeal the 1943 Prison Act.

The new act would allow remanded inmates to be exposed to training, education or work opportunities.

It would also ensure inmates are subject to periodic drug tests and psychiatric evaluations.

Archer said that association representatives and national security officials agreed on several provisions to be included in the bill, but, to their surprise, the bill does not reflect those provisions.

He accused officials of giving the association the “illusion of involvement”.

“They call us and we talk and so forth, but if you watched in Parliament we were surprised to hear what they said,” he said.

“It tells me clearly that we may discuss things but it is not reflected at the end of the day.”

The association wanted subordinate officers to become eligible for retirement at either age 60 or after 30 years of service.

Subordinate officers currently become eligible for retirement at age 50 or after the 30 years of service, but can work on contract for up to 10 more years, according to the Prison Act.

Archer argued that those additional years of service are not pensionable and do not afford officers gratuities.

“That is not fair because they already worked for their pension,” Archer said.

“What we proposed... will balance the playing field.”

He said the existing retirement structure often results in the loss of relatively young and experienced staff, many of whom opt not to work on contract.

There are currently more than 100 officers who will become eligible for retirement within the next year.

Archer said the association agreed for those ranks to be added to the prison structure.

He said he has since learnt they will replace the ranks of assistant, deputy and prison superintendent.

“We asked them to retain the ranks of assistant, deputy and prison superintendent so it could open the ranks,” Archer said.

“The officers would not be stagnated in one post for too long.”

Archer said the PSA has not seen the final version of the bill, but a letter has been drafted requesting it.


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