Tue | Oct 24, 2017

Jamaica: the new Alcatraz

Published:Friday | October 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

British Prime Minister David Cameron flew all of nine hours from London to Jamaica to gift us a prison. Or more precisely, £25-million donation towards a prison. And I watched my prime minister hug the man and tell him thank you, and my blood boiled. And I listened to the minister of national security rationalise the need for a state-of-the-art correctional facility and my fury was blinding.

In case you missed the memo, Jamaican taxpayers will be expected to find £37.5 million to complete the prison. The United Kingdom (UK) is only part-funding the project.

Allow me to paraphrase what I assume Mr Cameron came and said:

"Portia, I tell you from long time, tek back yu bad-breed people. I only want the brightest and best of them. Hm, hold dis 25 million. I checking back 2020 and by then a big prison betta build fi dem. I doan care where the rest of money going to come from, you just find it. Kiss, kiss, mate."

David Cameron didn't bring us a gift. He liquidated a liability. Just over 700 Jamaicans are in UK prisons. Mr Cameron merely wants to shed as much of that deadweight as possible. And since our backs are broad and conditioned from years of slavery, he (and our Government) assume we can take it.

The expectation is that just under a half of those imprisoned will be boarded on flights and sent back here to serve out their sentences in the shiny new facility. And then what?

Has anybody thought about what it costs to house, feed, clothe and care for 300 grown men? The UK bemoans that it costs them £27 million a year. When you send them here, who will foot that bill? Surely, not the already overtaxed, barely surviving Jamaican working class.

 

productive members

 

And OK, you'll build 40 per cent of the prison. Hooray. Where is the plan and funding to reintegrate the prisoners? The UK has committed to contribute £5 million of that. Where will the rest come from? How are these prisoners expected to be productive members of a land now foreign to them? And when crime rises in Jamaica because of their release, who cleans up that mess?

Imagine the precedence we will set if we agree to accept the prisoners. What's to then stop the US, Canada, Trinidad, and any other country around the world from following suit and dumping anything with an island accent into our prison system?

Has anyone considered the legality of the move? These prisoners have committed no crimes in Jamaica. What right have we to imprison them? As David Cameron flew out, the Japan prime minister flew in. I half expected him to one-up the UK and offer to build a £30-million prison on the Goat Islands to house Japanese prisoners.

Jamaica has the third highest number of prisoners in London; right behind Ireland and Poland. But no prisons are being funded in Ireland or Poland. We are the 'cunumunu'. This must be a joke.

The minister of national security laments the deplorable conditions our prisoners suffer through. I take issue with Bunting's priority being better conditions for prisoners. I would think a better use of funds would be crime-reduction methods that resulted in better conditions for the rest of us. What about an investment in education to uplift families and deter new entrants to the profession of inmate?

 

urgent bills

 

With my limited budget at home, I have priorities. The urgent bills get paid first. Does anyone remember that we have severe water woes? That our pipes are older than slavery and that we need more catchment facilities?

Does anyone remember that nearly 1,000 students get deregistered annually from universities because they can't pay their tuition and those who do graduate clamour to find employment in a country where jobs are a scarcity? Does anybody remember the deplorable condition of our health-care system and how doctors and nurses and having to make miracles with little and nothing?

A gift should be free and it should make you feel good. Making Jamaica the new Alcatraz is a gift the UK can keep. We have bigger problems.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.