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Economist magazine suggests Britain give Ja prison gift to other Caribbean countries

Published:Thursday | March 31, 2016 | 3:00 AMAndre Poyser

The Economist magazine has suggested that British Prime Minister David Cameron offer the £25 million offered to Jamaica for the construction of a new prison to other Caribbean countries in need of new penal facilities.

In an exposÈ titled Caribbean Prison - Blue Seas, Black Holes, the influential magazine highlighted the poor prison conditions in Caribbean countries, noting that of the 50 countries with the highest incarceration rates, 15 are former or current British Caribbean colonies.

This, it says, is due to high levels of violence, the criminalisation of cannabis use, and harsh sentencing laws.

The article, which focused primarily on prison conditions in Guyana and Antigua, argued that overcrowding correctional facilities in these countries creates opportunities for prison riots and points to the need for new prisons.

CAMERON'S OFFER

Turning its attention to Jamaica, the magazine said: "Last September, Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, offered Jamaica $40 million to help build a new prison to house both local inmates and some of the 600 Jamaicans serving time in British jails. The Jamaican Government of the time, which lost an election last month, was cool to the idea, and many Jamaicans were outraged."

The United Kingdom (UK) had offered £25 million to the Government to build a new prison in Jamaica so that foreign criminals in the UK could be sent home to serve sentences.

The amount was estimated to be 40 per cent of the cost involved in building a 2,000-capacity, state-of-the-art facility.

According to the UK-based publication, "There is, to be sure, something tin-eared about a political leader offering to pay to lock people up in a former colony. But dirty, crowded prisons add to the misery of inmates, many of whom were impoverished before they turned to crime. If Jamaica does not want Mr Cameron's money, perhaps he should offer it to Guyana and Antigua instead."

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com