$30b prison on table
Developer floats pricey proposal; DBJ to assess project viability
The Government has received an unsolicited bid from a prominent Jamaican developer to construct a $30-billion prison on 300 acres of land in Hartlands, St Catherine, a well-placed Gleaner source has disclosed. The proposed prison would be built on...
The Government has received an unsolicited bid from a prominent Jamaican developer to construct a $30-billion prison on 300 acres of land in Hartlands, St Catherine, a well-placed Gleaner source has disclosed.
The proposed prison would be built on 100 acres and accommodate up to 3,500 inmates, with facilities to include a courthouse and a hospital. The remaining 200 acres would be used for skills training and farming, as well as for subsistence.
The developer would finance the upfront cost to build the prison while engaging the Government in a public-private partnership in its operations, The Gleaner understands.
While not confirming the precise price tag of the proposed state-of-the-art prison, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang acknowledged that there was a formal proposal, among other exploratory overtures.
Chang said that the state-run Development Bank of Jamaica was being engaged in “serious consultancy” to take charge of the project and oversee the crafting of a complete business plan, which would examine several variables, including social impact.
The national security minister characterised the new phase as “the end of the beginning”.
“We have been looking at building a new prison facility. There has been preliminary work done by the ministry. Figures have ranged from $8 billion to $40 billion or $50 billion. There’s no hard figure,” he said during a Gleaner interview late Monday.
Chang said that the push for a new prison was settled government policy, adding that the disbanding of the obsolete prisons at Tower Street, Kingston, and Spanish Town, St Catherine, would free up swathes of land for development in both urban centres.
The revelations come after Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on Sunday that the Government is mulling over a new maximum-security prison to house high-risk inmates who may direct violent crime on the outside.
Chang said that the high-risk fortress would be part of the wider Hartlands correctional centre.
The decrepit state of Jamaica’s colonial-era main prisons has been cited as inhumane and a factor behind the 42 per cent recidivism, or reoffending, rate among inmates.
Construction of a new maximum-security correctional centre has been a contentious issue for many years, with then British Prime Minister David Cameron’s offer of a £25-million prison – with the proviso of deportees completing sentences there – being snubbed by the Government.
Meanwhile, Arlington Turner, chairman of the Jamaica Federation of Corrections, has welcomed Holness’ plan for a prison for high-risk inmates, contending that phone-jamming technology installed at correctional facilities has not been successful in preventing communication with their cronies on the outside.
“It is correct to say that we have persons behind bars who are in touch with the outside world, carrying out quite a lot of issues. We can’t deny this. So, if you can put the persons in a sterile space, there is nothing wrong with that,” he said.
Turner has also supported the Government’s plan to impose stiffer penalties on rogue correctional officers who facilitate communication between inmates and co-conspirators.
The prime minister declared during his presentation at the 79th Jamaica Labour Party annual conference on Sunday that a new corrections bill would hit correctional officers with custodial sentences if found to be abetting illegal activities.
Turner told The Gleaner that such a measure was long overdue.
“The fact is, we’ve been saying this for quite some time. We have been asking the ministry to put things in place to remove these persons from amongst us because what we find happening is that correctional officers get caught up in these issues, and then go through the courts and end up back in the institution working, carrying out their normal function, which is not in keeping with what the law says,” Turner said.
However, he believes that the number of correctional officers colluding with prisoners to carry out crime is in the minority.
“I can clearly say that less than two per cent of our correctional officers carry out any form of illegal activities. The majority of correctional officers are law-abiding citizens who carry out their functions according to law,” Turner said.
But he still is a little sceptical about putting too much hope in declarations.
“I hope this is not just another announcement, because these announcements have been coming for quite some time and we see nothing happen,” he said.