Friday 21 February, 2020

MP: T&T will soon be among countries with highest prison population

The Opposition is calling on the Government to take a more "even-handed" approach to deal with crime.

In a statement on Thursday, Naparima MP Rodney Charles called for a crime plan that was more coordinated, measurable, time defined, with performance targets for all agencies involved in the fight against crime.

He made the comment as he criticised the Anti Gang and Bail Bill, the Anti-terrorism Bill and even the Civil Asset and Management and Unexplained Wealth Bill which forms part of the Government's suite of legislation to combat crime. He says the Government's proposals are so far geared toward the incarceration of people rather than to treat with other issues which cause criminal activity.

"If our overly ambitious AG were to have his way with his promised suite of legislation, and if law enforcement were somehow to operate effectively, our country will soon have the dishonour of being among those with the world's largest prison populations. According to the World Prison Brief, TT with 292 prisoners per 100,000 citizens ranks an embarrassingly high 37th in the world among 222 countries and dependencies."

Charles noted that the United States has the world's highest prison population at 655 per 100,000 in 2018. He said even they are working toward reducing the figure. 

"US lawmakers are now discussing steps to reduce its racially discriminatory prison population based on misguided policies of the 1990s. While TT is daily taking steps legislatively to increase our prison populations, the US is doing the opposite."

The Opposition MP said equal emphasis must be placed on reducing our prison populations by providing viable social, cultural, sporting and employment alternatives for the next generation.

"The UNC has been saying ad nausea that government's crime reduction plan simply cannot be to lock up more and more inner-city males without prioritizing measurable crime reduction strategies that help at-risk youth find viable and attractive alternatives to crime."

"Institutions like MILAT, MYPART, the CCC, Cadets, 4 H Clubs, Youth Camps, Sporting bodies, religious organizations, Servol and Scouts must be well funded, adequately resourced and given well thought out, performance targets to reduce the allure which gold bedecked, state-financed, Mercedes Benz driving, gang leaders have on at-risk youth left to their own devices."

Charles added that careful attention must be paid to creating well-paying jobs so that meaningful employment is immediately available upon graduation from these programmes.

He further noted that Trinidad is listed for having the highest number of ISIS fighters per capita with negative travel advisories abound; a murder rate that exceeds 500 annually and what he describes as a stagnated economy. This, as he accused the Government of failing to take initiative.

"Economic diversification remains a pipe dream. Our debt to GDP ratio is getting out of hand. We are not noted for the ease of doing business. Hopelessness pervades. As a calypsonian notes: “Ah frighten to live.”"

Meanwhile, he called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to state whether the ultimate plan is to privatise the nation's prisons along the lines of the US as a follow up to the transport of prisoners by Amalgamated Security Services Limited.

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