Get rid of the gallows! - Prison head bats for rehabilitation and not execution
A PIGEON nestles under the roof of the once-dreaded gallows of the St Catherine District Prison unperturbed by the flurry of activities around it as journalists toured the area where convicted murderers formerly met their demise.
Two ropes suspended from the roof of the gallows hung motionless, refusing to be swayed by the heavy wind that rushed past.
A partially rusting lever, which, when depressed by the person executing the death sentence shifts the wooden foundation from under the feet of its victims, is a reminder that the hangman has been without a job since the February 19, 1988, execution of Standford Dinnall and Natan Foster.
The holding area for death-row inmates has for some time now been used as a storeroom.
At present, two persons are on death row, with one said to be close to the five-year period during which his sentence is expected to be commuted to life imprisonment based on the 1993 Pratt and Morgan ruling from the United Kingdom-based Privy Council.
Earl Pratt and Ivan Morgan, who were sentenced to death for a 1977 murder, were removed from death row after the Privy Council handed down judgment in their favour.
The Privy Council ruled that in any case where an execution is to take place more than five years after sentencing, there would be strong grounds for believing that the delay is such as to constitute "inhumane or degrading punishment or other treatment".
Today, the symbol of death, at least the area around it, has been transformed into life, with a vegetable garden providing well-needed nutrients for the approximately 1,000 inmates at the facility.
Not a deterrent to crime
Senior Superintendent of the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre Reuben Kelly said inmates have planted and reaped more than 1,000 pounds of callaloo and okra in the last six months.
On the question of hanging, Kelly said he did not believe that sending persons to the gallows was a deterrent to crime. He said following the Pratt and Morgan ruling, 245 inmates were removed from death row.
The St Catherine correctional boss said the two men now on death row are not isolated from other inmates, but are allowed to participate in recreational activities.
He said because of the Pratt and Morgan ruling, there is great hope for them. "They always rely on that ruling to keep them from the hangman's noose," he said.
Kelly said he believed that convicted murderers could be rehabilitated. "What we find is that if you execute 100 inmates today, you have 100 murders by the following month. There is no one that is irredeemable. I think all inmates can be redeemed. For some, it may take more time than others and may take other kinds of intervention," he reasoned.