Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Port Authority tells prison services to relocate fort augusta in four months
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has been given until the end of December to shut shop and relocate the approximately 250 female prisoners now being housed at the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre.
The deadline was communicated to the DCS during a recent meeting with the landlords - the Port Authority of Jamaica.
A missive followed the meeting again outlining that the island's sole female prison must be relocated before 2012 ends.
This was confirmed by Lieutenant Colonel Sean Prendergast, commissioner of corrections and head of the DCS.
"The latest request that was made was for us to move by the end of December," he said.
But sources close to the situation told our news team that the Ministry of National Security, under whose remit the DCS falls, is trying to convince the landlord to give it more time to find a new facility to house the women.
Prendergast told The Sunday Gleaner that no decision has been taken on which location will be the new home of Jamaica's female prisoners.
"We are looking at options to facilitate the move of inmates from Fort Augusta if we have to move in December," said Prendergast.
"We have a plan, but I cannot go into the details. I prefer if you get it from the ministry," he added.
The national security ministry did not respond to questions our news team sent last Friday.
However, Sunday Gleaner sources have revealed that the DCS and the ministry are caught between a rock and a hard place.
According to the well-placed source, one of the plans on the table is moving the male inmates from the South Camp Adult Correctional Centre, a maximum-security prison, and placing them at the other two already overcrowded maximum-security facilities, Tower Street and St Catherine.
The source said this is the more dangerous of the two leading options being considered, as overcrowding poses clear and present dangers and difficult challenges.
The other option is the construction of a new prison. But, the cash-strapped Government might be less inclined to go this route.
In September 2011, Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, then state minister in the national security ministry under the Jamaica Labour Party government, made it clear that the Government could not afford to build a new prison.
At that time, Bartlett told The Gleaner that the construction of new correctional facilities would have to be driven by private individuals as the Government is strapped for cash.
He also told our news team that the national security ministry was searching for lands to relocate the St Catherine-based Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre because the Port Authority of Jamaica was seeking to expand and redevelop the Port of Kingston.
The lands of Jamaica's sole female prison, as well as surrounding parcels, were sold to the Port Authority close to a decade ago as part of redevelopment plans for the Port of Kingston.
Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies recently announced that the Port Authority has received a proposal from China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) expressing an interest in providing private investment to develop a new container terminal on lands already owned by the authority as well as lands to be created by dredging at Fort Augusta.
According to Davies, the Cabinet has given approval for the Port Authority to proceed with the implementation of a non-binding memorandum of understanding with CHEC for the development of a container terminal at Fort Augusta.
This is expected to use most of the 50 acres (125 hectares which now house the prison and surrounding lands.