A Government backbencher, a medical doctor, is urging her fellow lawmakers to introduce lethal injection as a method of execution and abolish hanging.
St Philip North MP Dr Sonia Browne told the House of Assembly this afternoon that hanging is antiquated and could also result in the condemned person’s suffering.
The measure was one of a series of suggestions on the fate of prison convicts that the first-time MP made in debate on the Offences Against the Person (Amendment) Bill 2018, which the House later passed to abolish the mandatory death sentence.
Dr Browne echoed the position of other legislators in the debate who insist that the death penalty itself must remain on the statute books for heinous murders.
“The death penalty evokes emotions, anger, sadness, everything. Religion comes into it, upbringing comes into it . . . . The argument is not about the death penalty. But what I would say, is that we need to come out of the hanging thing. Hanging is antiquated and I see something there about suffering,” said Dr Browne, who is Chairman of Committees, adding that she once had a problem with the death penalty until she got to realize the nature of some of the homicides being committed.
It was at this point that she suggested an alternative system of inflicting capital punishment.
“There has to be a way . . . I believe something more progressive like the lethal injection where there is not one man to pull a lever and have to live with killing somebody for the rest of their lives, where there are a lot of automatic things.
“I think that needs to come here. And it needs to come here and not get cobwebs. Too many people killing people and know . . . willfully . . . that they will sit in prison and enjoy the rest of their days,” said the MP for St Philip North.
She also made the case for the introduction of parole, expressing concern that about two years ago a number of people were in prison for murder but “got let out and went and killed again. This is where the parole comes in, this is where the punishment that fits the crime comes in”.
Without elaborating on the parole proposal, Dr Browne also spoke briefly on the issue of bail.
“Apart from murder offences, we have to look at letting out people on bail who have committed these issues, these offences. I don’t think that people should be given bail and hence the process needs to be fast. Because in the cases of innocence you don’t want to keep somebody there for seven years before a case comes up,” she added.
The conduct of the law courts and prisons did not escape her attention.
Dr Browne told Parliament neither of these institutions must appear to be prejudicial.
“The rich, the poor, White, Black, Indian, everybody should suffer the same fate if they do a crime they do the time or whatever punishment is meted out,” the bankbencher declared.
She continued: “I think the Barbadians are being disappointed and disillusioned and think that only the poor Black people can suffer prison terms and be punished in this way.” She suggested that the rich and white appear to be getting off.
She also argued that prison should be a place where going back should never enter a person’s mind.
“Now that is not the case. I have met people that told me straight . . . ready to go to a fight . . . ‘Doc, I don’t mind, prison not made for animals. Doc, I don’t mind, I got friends in there.’ It has to be a place where when you go in, the punishment meted out to you, you have no idea or thought or even dream about going back to prison, and right now I cannot say for a fact that is the case,” the St Philip North MP told the Lower Chamber.
She contended that inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds were now playing cards and dominoes rather than being put to work on the lands around the prison to grow food.
“They have an expansive land area around Dodds Prison. In my mind the prison should be self-sufficient at least in food. There is too much land around Dodds that the prisoners cannot do agriculture. They used to it along the highway years ago. We have the debushing programme that the Government is trying its best to find money for . . . and there are prisoners up there playing cards and dominoes. Use them,” Dr Browne said, adding that this should be part of their punishment.