A high powered delegation of Government Ministers today visited the Santa Rosa Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre (ECRC). The delegation comprised Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Minister of Justice Emmanuel George and Minister of Housing and Urban Development Dr.Roodal Moonilal.
The visit comes on the eve of the historic debate on the Bail Amendment Bill which will deny bail for a minimum of 120 days to a person who was already convicted and served his time for a violent, dangerous and serious crime. This Bill was passed in the House of Representatives last Friday. The Opposition voted against the measure.
The Bill is scheduled to be debated in the Senate on Tuesday. It requires a special constitutional majority and hence the Government needs the support of the independent senators.
AG Ramlogan said, “This visit was in response to the concerns raised with respect to overcrowding in the prisons in light of the fact that the ‘One Strike and You’re Out’ Bail Amendment law will lead to an increase in the number of incarceration of repeat offenders as they will be denied bail. I was extremely impressed with the facilities .The prison has a modern design and layout which includes classroom facilities, spacious cells, proper airing and exercise amenities along with entertainment.”
“The prison can comfortably house over 400 prisoners and the present occupancy rate is 137. Additional prisons can be easily constructed as the facility is favourably configured for that kind of accommodation. Over 1200 additional prisoners can be easily housed. In addition to this, the Government has agreed to acquire the adjacent property which is currently used for warehousing. A large building is already in existence with over 4 acres of covered space. I am advised that the integrity of the structure is solid and it can accommodate two stories. This will give over 8 acres of covered space that can be easily converted to prisons. In the long term, this can be converted into a remand facility and replace the Port-of-Spain prison. I am quite satisfied therefore that the capacity in our prisons is not an issue and that the legitimate concern about over-crowding will be addressed. ”
AG Ramlogan indicated he was looking forward to the debate in the Senate on Tuesday and was cautiously optimistic about receiving support from the independent bench, “The legislation is long over-due and much -needed as the time had come to re-balance the scales of justice and not simply concentrate on the rights of prisoners but also on the rights of innocent law-abiding citizens.”