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Govt to consider prison association concerns

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 17, 2013

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After the Prison Staff Association (PSA) called the Correctional Services Bill “imbalanced” regarding officers’ pension and promotion structure, Prime Minister Perry Christie pledged yesterday that the government will consider its requests and look into the matter.

Christie’s comments came as he wrapped up debate on the bill in the House of Assembly.

He said while there are financial implications of changing the promotion and pension structures, it will be considered.

“It is a matter that I think I should indicate the government would look at,” Christie said.

“...Having listened to members in their discourse today, I would wish the government to take a look at it and to see the extent to which we are able to understand fully the intentions and working of it.

“With respect to that, I am able to agree to the request that when I finish my debate, we [will] place the matter in committee for when we come back to it at a later stage.”

The new bill would repeal the 1943 Prison Act, and seeks to transform the focus of Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) from incarceration to rehabilitation.

The association wants 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 30 years of service, but can work on contract for up to 10 more years, according to the Prison Act.

PSA President Gregory Archer 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.

The prime minister agreed with that point.

Christie said he understood that when the police and prison acts were passed, sergeants were considered “the work horse” of the force.

He said the pension structures were designed to incentivize subordinate officers to attain the rank of sergeant and remain in that position.

The association also argued that its representatives and national security officials agreed on several provisions to be included in the bill, but the bill does not reflect those provisions.

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

But Christie said there were financial implications of changing.

“I should indicate that extensive consultation was engaged by the Ministry of National Security with the superintendent of the prison, his executive management team as well as the chairman of the Prison Staff Association and the executives,” he said.

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