A Government senator and religious leader is advising the Freundel Stuart administration not to rush to get rid of corporal punishment.
Dr David Durant issued the caution during debate on the Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2014 in the Senate today, when he also urged policymakers to give very careful consideration to what categories of prisoners should be eligible for parole.
He described the legislation –– which makes provision for the conditional release of prisoners, the establishment of a Prisoners’ Release Board, the abolition of the use of corporal punishment in prisons and other related matters –– as timely and needed.
The reverend said corporal punishment should be “maintained as an option to be used in certain circumstances and under specified conditions”. However he added it should be a last resort at home and in schools.
“We should not be in a hurry or in any mad rush to dismantle key systems of control that have held this society together for more than 300 years,” he said.
But he insisted that consideration should be given to whether all categories of prisoners should be eligible for review or release.
“Should those people who willfully and knowingly commit serious, heinous and hideous acts of crime be given easy access to the possibility of parole? That is a question that needs to be looked at and thought through clearly. I believe all categories of prisoners should not be eligible for release,” said Durant, adding that the advice of professionals should be sought.
“Careful thought, therefore, and wisdom and careful background checks must be followed at arriving at decisions to releasing prisoners as it relates to parole. The possibility of parole or release must not be seen or used to undermine the process of justice, which must remain within the purview of the magistrates, the judges and the jurors.”
He also urged policymakers to be careful that society did not become “very disgruntled and demotivated because of this particular system we want to adopt”.
The senator also called for the purpose of the Prisoners’ Release Board to be clearly articulated, suggesting that families of victims should have a say in the process.
“While leniency has merit, it must not be a point at which the release of a prisoner flies in the face of the pain the family is carrying, the hurts and the fears which the victim’s family has to be facing on a daily basis and which they will continue to face from time to time and may never be released from,” he contended.
“In this regard, some consideration should be given to informing the relatives of the victim of the application and to see whether they have any objection to the release. We don’t want a situation where the families of the victims are surprised. It is also suggested that some measure of counselling should be put in place for the family of the victim.”
The Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was passed in the Senate this evening.