US shies away from Ja­maica prison of­fer

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIO­NAL - Ed­mond Camp­bell/ Se­nior Staff Re­porter ed­­bell@glean­

UNITED STATES Am­bas­sador to Ja­maica Don­ald Tapia says that Wash­ing­ton has steered clear of any in­volve­ment with the prison sys­tem in Ja­maica, sig­nalling that it would not pro­vide fund­ing to con­struct cor­rec­tional cen­tres lo­cally.

Asked if the US government would fi­nance a new fa­cil­ity to re­place the ram­shackle and di­lap­i­dated over­crowded pris­ons in the coun­try, Tapia told a Gleaner Edi­tors’ fo­rum on Wed­nes­day at the news­pa­per’s North Street of­fices that his coun­try had not en­gaged on the is­sue and has been “watch­ing from the side­lines” de­bate on the build­ing of a new cor­rec­tional cen­tre.

Ear­lier this month, Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness said that his ad­min­is­tra­tion did not re­ject the $5.5 bil­lion of­fer by the Bri­tish government to help fund a new prison in Ja­maica, not­ing that it was the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) ad­min­is­tra­tion that was in power at the time.

In re­cent times, the op­po­si­tion Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party and the Hol­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion have been en­gaged in a squab­ble over who re­jected the of­fer.

In re­sponse to ques­tions from The Gleaner, Bri­tish High Com­mis­sioner Asif Ah­mad said that Hol­ness told him in Au­gust 2017 that his Government“would not take for­ward” the United King­dom’s of­fer to help build a prison here.

The Ja­maican Government has said that it would con­struct a state-of-the-art prison out of its own pocket ear­lier this month.

Hol­ness had said that a pro­posal for a new prison is cur­rently on the ta­ble.


Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Dr Ho­race Chang said that the project would be funded by the Ja­maican Government, adding that the ad­min­is­tra­tion con­sid­ered se­cu­rity its pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Mean­while, Tapia said that the re­set­tle­ment of Ja­maicans who have been de­ported to the is­land was the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Ja­maican Government. He was re­spond­ing to con­cerns that Ja­maicans who had spent, in some in­stances, most of their lives in the US have been sent home with­out fam­ily to look af­ter them or with­out the nec­es­sary re­sources.

He said that the pris­ons in the US have train­ing pro­grammes to pre­pare per­sons who have been in­car­cer­ated to in­te­grate into the so­ci­ety.

Tapia said that the US government had no other re­course but to re­turn per­sons who had served time in prison back to their coun­try, given that they would be liv­ing il­le­gally in the US.

He said that some 3,500 Ja­maicans are on a list for de­por­ta­tion from the US.

The US top diplo­mat in Ja­maica said that 40 Ja­maicans would nor­mally be de­ported on each oc­ca­sion. How­ever, he said that the last batch was 27, not­ing that the bal­ance had ap­peals against their de­por­ta­tion while oth­ers had tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19.


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