|$55M for toilets |
MIRANDA LA ROSE Saturday, May 20 2017
THE Prisons Service is awaiting approval of $55 million from Cabinet for the elimination of the use of pails in the Remand Yard Prison, replacing this with toilets for prisoners. Also plans are afoot to build a remand prison to ease overcrowding in the prisons system says Commissioner of Prisons Cecil Duke.
The eradication of the pail system will solve the problem of the use of toilets at nights and improve the hygiene and health issues, Duke said.
Answering questions yesterday from the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, Equality and Diversity inquiring into the human rights of ‘remandees’ at the Remand Yard Prison, Arouca, Duke said, the plan to install the toilets was in place probably before 2013.
Funding for the project, he said, was out of the hands of the prisons administration as it could only approve the use of $450,000. The estimates for the project have been submitted, he said. “We are waiting the go ahead from up above to actually start this project.” In the meantime, he said, 23 stainless steel toilets were installed throughout the facility allowing the inmates to use during the day.
On the construction of the new remand prison, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Vel Lewis said, the proposal has been agreed to, land has been identified, and the Urban Development Company of TT (Udecott) has been engaged to manage the project. Udecott is in discussions with the Ministry of National Security to finalise the contract. The ministry is hoping, he said, to have an agreement in place with Udecott for preliminary designs by the end of this fiscal year.
“We had actually hoped to start that project this year but because of the financial constraint within which we are operating, he said, “we had to prioritise differently.
So we are actually aiming to start that project in the new fiscal year.” The ministry had to give priority, he said, to some other projects including the electronic monitoring system which is expected to reduce the population in the remand yard. This system would allow remandees to be released and monitored.
“We hope to have this project on stream by the end of this fiscal year.” In dealing with overcrowding and managing the remand yard, Duke said, the prisons service has tried as far as possible not to keep the number to not more than 1,000 persons in recent times.
Any remandee that above 1,000, he said, are transferred to the Maximum Security Prisons which has capacity.
In the past, the prison service would transfer remandees to the Maximum Security Prison when the remand yard reached 1,200.
The remand yard was built to accommodate 600 prisoners. At present it has 714.
To improve conditions in the remand yard, Duke said that 300 beds were bought and installed, and a laundry was built and two washing machines and four dryers installed to allow the remandees to wash their clothes.
Where there is lack of beds, he said, remandees are given mats to sleep on.
Meanwhile, concerns expressed by the prisons service included the ratio of one prison officer to 20 remandees when ideally it should be one prison officer to six remandees, the mental stress of remandees due to long incarceration some for as long as 14 years due to the failure of criminal justice system and the need for their reintegration in society just as those who would have been convicted, the submission of a strategic plan awaiting approval for implementation, and prison rules still to be updated.
Concern was also expressed that there is no charter that defines how