ST JOHN’S- Criminals could soon be put to work to repay their debt to society in a bid to reduce pressure on the woefully overcrowded prison – currently at double capacity.
The introduction of US and UK-style community service orders in place of a custodial sentence is among a raft of suggestions put forward by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Anthony Armstrong was speaking in response to a statement by Attorney General Justin Simon QC, who yesterday pledged to do all he could to influence new trends of sentencing in Antigua & Barbuda.
There are presently more than 300 inmates housed at the national prison – build to house 150. In the remand section, approximately 12 inmates share a cell measuring 12X9 feet, prison boss Percy Adams reported a few months earlier.
And, with only three beds per cell, reports indicate some prisoners sleep on blankets on the floor.
Simon QC said, “Whilst I can not make any promises in respect of a new facility being constructed, clearly we have to address the whole mode of punishment and it is important we would now have to seek to establish alternative punishment to imprisonment.”
He broke news of his plans at yesterday’s opening ceremony of the 2012/2013 Law Year. The idea was warmly welcomed by Armstrong, who suggested a number of alternatives to incarceration.
Simon said last week he had “a visitor” who reported there were many first time offenders locked up for minor offences and such punishment does not help the offender since rehabilitative measures in the jail are highly inadequate.
He also said he hopes to soon change the method of remand from transporting prisoners to court every week and instead have the magistrate go to the prison and execute remands.
According to the legal officer, it would reduce security risks and it would also prevent a recurrence of prisoners not being taken to court for remands as in the case of two British men who recently won $15,000 each in damages because authorities failed to take them to court for weekly remands for five months. (Antigua Observer)