Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan yesterday said that the large number prisoners on remand is costing the nation a fortune annually and alternatives to pre-trial methods must be utilised.
“The current remand population of our prison facilities accounts for 35 percent of all inmates and the cost of providing meals alone for the remand population is estimated at 150 million dollars annually. That’s just for food and there are several additional costs associated with incarceration of these pretrial detainees,” Ramjattan said, according to the Department of Public Information (DPI).
He added that with the high costs in mind, members of the judiciary should be more encouraged and willing to capitalise on the opportunities to utilise alternatives to pre-trial detention.
“The current high rate of remand to prison population makes a strong case for stakeholders along the criminal justice chain to seek ways to eliminate inappropriate use of pretrial detention,” the minister contended.
Meanwhile, Consultant Peter J. Pursglove said that there is a “disappointing failure” of the justice system to gather and produce statistics that can be used to reliably develop alternative systems.
“We found that we had prisoners with different names, but the same facts, different dates of births from the judiciary and the prison service, different sentences and different times that they were committed. Overall, we found that their statistics could not be accurately used because they were unreliable,” Pursglove said, according to DPI.
In addition, the consultant said that the development of an effective alternative to pre-trial detention is heavily dependent on a modern data collection system.
“There has to be a proper prisoner database if there is going to be any development of sentencing reforms. You have got to know who is in your prison and why he’s is there. It is important for remand prisoners that you should be able to look at each remand prisoner and know exactly when he entered prison and when his next court appearance should be. You have got to constantly monitor those in the system to make sure they are going through their stages at the right time otherwise they do get left behind,” the consultant said.
Ramjattan yesterday addressed the opening of a workshop to discuss the recommendations of the Draft Final Report on a study of alternatives to incarceration for pre-trial detainees at the Grand Coastal Conference Room.