Cabinet yesterday approved new prison rules to allow for the granting of conjugal rights to certain prisoners. This was revealed by Justice Minister Herbert Volney during yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. He stressed the new policy provided for “a detailed system of communication and visits, which will allow prisoners to communicate with their family, friends and attorneys, including the use of telephone and video visits as well as conjugal and private family visits for convicted criminals who meet eligibility criteria.” Volney also said the new rules would address certain “anachronistic and archaic” measures which were introduced more than 120 years ago (1888). He said the new measures provided for the management of prisons, including the treatment of prisoners and the conduct and functions of prison officers. He said the policy would be contained in the Prisons Amendment Bill 2012 and the Prison Rules 2012, which would debated in Parliament shortly. He said the legislation would form part of the Government’s move to implement positive and preventative measures in the prisons system. Volney said the measures would take T&T’s penal system closer to one of restorative justice, as opposed to one of retribution.
He said the new rules would provide for:
• The custody of all inmates to be under human dignity;
• a proper system of classification and supervision levels for all prisoners;
• the requirements of clothing, food and sleeping accommodation to conform to United Nations standards, where possible;
• the provision of adequate medical services that will cater to prisoners with special needs and conditions; and
• the procedures to be adopted for the compulsory testing of HIV and AIDS.
He said inmates who have acquired or entered the system with “these challenges can be treated in a humane way.” Volney said the new legislation also would provide for a system of privileges to be afforded for the different classes of prisoners. He said a points system also would be implemented “for prisoners to earn remission or part of remission of their sentences.” He said the new legislation provided for changes to mandatory drug-testing, searches and restraints for prisoners. Without giving details, Volney said there would be penalties for any breach of the rules. He said the new legislation provided for “early” release of prisoners who co-operated. “They won’t be locked up as is the case now and made to serve two-thirds of their sentence without any chance of earlier release,” he said. Volney said the issue of over-crowding in the nation’s prisons would be effectively addressed when those measures and others were implemented. He said the Government also had approved the parole policy, which would be introduced in due course. He hoped the measure could be implemented by the end of the year. He said if the prisoners who had good behaviour and good manners could be released earlier and would reduce the over-crowding problem in the prisons. Meanwhile, Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar said the facility in Arima, which was opened during the state of emergency last year, would remain despite the expiration of the emergency last December. He said the resources should not be wasted and they would continue to be used as a regular correctional facility.