ACTIVIST Nazma Muller, who was recently charged and held at Golden Grove prison for the possession and cultivation of cannabis, says the local criminal justice system is beyond dreadful and that the prisons can only serve to harden a so-called criminal.
Muller took to the pavement outside the Hall of Justice, directly opposite the office of the Minister of National Security, on Friday, along with fellow activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, who posted her bail.
She sought an audience with Minister of National Security Stuart Young but he was not available.
"I saw first hand what inmates go through. As a mother, the policies are not geared towards maintaining your relationship with your children. You have plead to make phone calls. And, especially with the situation with covid, you have all sorts of new regulations."
Denying basic necessities, like a phone call, she stressed, has and continues to cause inmates to acquire them by underhanded means and encouraging further illegal activity, as evidenced by the frequent reports of the smuggling of contraband involving prison officers.
"So what I'm trying to highlight, with Dr Kublalsingh's help, is the state of the nation's prisons, physically, and what it does mentally. It is not helping the country.
"For one, we need to look at reducing the prison population, not increasing it," Muller said, suggesting that electronic tracking devices and house arrest should be utilised, especially for low-risk prisoners, who are nearing the end of their sentences.
"Sometimes we have eight men to a cell in remand. They have not had a trial, and they are still innocent until proven guilty, and it's costing us $16,000 a month to keep each inmate in prison."
She said the system needs an overhaul, from the detention of accused people to their sentencing, confinement and rehabilitation.
"We are looking at police station lock-ups and what it does to you mentally and psychologically," Muller said, adding that she was kept overnight at both the Arouca and Arima stations.
"Should we as a nation continue this path of punitive action against people who are still not convicted? Should we be looking at restorative justice?"
Apart from physically separating them, she said the prison does not address the differences between men and women and their needs.
"Women cannot endure the kinds of conditions that men can. And it's horrific.
"I mean, basic human right (are) being ignored. The use of pails in the 21st century – three people using one pail to defecate and urinate in. The prisons are a breeding ground for more disease. The sanitation is terrible."