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Poverty to prison? Charles Jr questions government's commitment to the populace

Published:Monday | October 5, 2015 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:

Pearnel Charles Jr, deputy spokesperson on national security, has said plans by the British government to contribute £25 million to build a prison here, may be more of a loss than a gain for the country.

The prison is expected to host some 300 Jamaica-born prisoners convicted of crimes in England.

"I would like to know the details on how we intend to pay 60 per cent of the bill to maintain the initiative spurred by the UK's commitment to rid itself of immigrant criminal offenders. If it will cost us more than PS25 million, is this the right gift for us?" he asked

Speaking at the Jamaica Labour Party's 'From Poverty to Prosperity' forum at Manchester High School last Thursday, Charles admitted the country's correctional facilities are in fact overwhelmed, but expressed that no careful thought is being put into this by the Government.

"We have competing priorities, all important issues, and we must engage in the debate to determine if we want to move from poverty to prison, or from poverty to prosperity," said Charles.

Adding that Prime Minister David Cameron has clearly executed his mandate, Charles questioned the Government's hasty compliance.

"Isn't the UK not in a far better position than Jamaica to keep offenders incarcerated? While we have overcrowded prisons, there are, in fact, over 2,300 empty prison cells as at last Friday in the UK ... our two main prisons were built to house 1,700 and there are almost 3,000 prisoners crammed in them," said Charles.

The deputy spokesperson stated that more emphasis needs to be placed on reducing the country's prisons and improving the justice system.

"We need to examine our sentencing policies by increasing our investigative and forensic capabilities to not only increase convictions, but more important, to deter future crimes. A big part of crime-fighting is crime prevention and that comes primarily from two things - intensive policing and the extent to which would be perpetrators are deterred by the fear of being caught and punished," he said.

Charles added that a review of sentencing policies is necessary, as 25 per cent of the prison population is there for drug-related offences, while 40 per cent were charged with non-violent crimes such as embezzlement, simple larceny and even traffic offences.