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Letter of the day: Schooling Holness on prison benefits

Published:Monday | October 5, 2015 | 10:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I read the article 'Prison break' (Gleaner, October 2, 2015) and I was thrilled to learn of plans to build a state-of-the-art correctional facility in Jamaica through a grant that will be provided by the government of the United Kingdom.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting announced that this new modern-day facility would feature, inter alia, more space, productive and rehabilitation facilities, cell phone transmission-blocking features, and toilet facilities in each cell.

The fact that the funds are being made available to assist us in building a multi-purpose and an absolutely necessary correctional facility - correcting a century-old issue that has tarnished Jamaica as having one of the worst human-rights records - should be welcomed with open arms.

It cannot be overstated that the current conditions in which the detainees are held, especially with the lack of rehabilitation facilities, are lamentable and will continue to put us at risk and under scrutiny because of the inordinately long time that it takes for us to conform to acceptable human-rights standards.

Bunting is on the right path in this regard and right-thinking Jamaicans should embrace this proposition because the benefits, insofar as the planning, appear to outweigh the disadvantages by far.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness' practical side of the rhetoric is that the building of schools would serve a better purpose while we have offenders who are being abused in overcrowded facilities and that it would be a great crime-solving step. I am stating the obvious when I say that the building of schools will not help to rehabilitate offenders.

 

MISPLACED PRIORITY

 

I could not help but wonder about the misplaced priority and the apparent illogic offered by Holness when he was reported as saying that he would have been more pleased if he had heard of plans for the building of schools.

Of course, building new prisons would not solve our crime problem. That requires a collective approach from citizens, civil society, and the police. But at least the Government would be demonstrating to its citizens and to the international partners that it took human-rights issues seriously.

Our school system obviously does not affect Jamaica's human-rights record in any significant way as do the current deplorable conditions of our correctional facilities. That Holness suggested that more schools would assist in solving crime is a manifestation that his priorities are utterly and disturbingly misplaced.

It is clear that in this young former prime minister's mind, more schools are more important in this dilemma than improving our deplorable human-rights record. Holness needs to focus on what needs to be fixed as a matter of necessity and urgency.

DUJON RUSSELL

dujon.russell@yahoo.com