NATIONAL Security Minister Edmund Dillon has said the plan to abolish preliminary enquiries for criminal offences “is aimed at making the administration of justice increasingly effective” and will reduce court delays. Dillon was the feature speaker yesterday at the “2017 Preparation for Release Programme” launch, at the Youth Training Centre's auditorium in Arouca.
The programme is a joint effort between Vision On Mission, the Ministry of National Security and Prison Service. The audience comprised men and women who were on their way out of the prison system after serving their respective sentences.
Pointing out that 68 per cent of inmates in the nation's prisons were men and women awaiting trial, Dillon added: “If we can reduce that, we can have a positive effect on crime in Trinidad and Tobago.”
The “Amendment to the Indictable Offences Act”, currently being debated in Parliament, was a hot topic for the minister as “the passage of this bill will enable the reduction of court delays and improve court case management and, in fact, any attempt to reduce the backlog of cases in our nation's courts will have a direct impact on the Prison Service, particularly remand prison”, he said.
“The abolition of the preliminary enquiry in this manner will in no uncertain terms provide accused persons speedier determination of court matters and reduce the cost of accused persons to defend their matters as it relates to the inference of legal fees,” Dillon added.
He then joked: “The lawyers would not like to hear that, but from a holistic perspective, this would also reduce the trauma of victims and disenchantment of witnesses, and this Government wants to assure that the current dilemma of delayed justice is resolved.”
Power of partnerships
Dillon also spoke about the power of partnerships and how such can be used to keep former inmates from returning to the prison system.
“It has been stated that 58 per cent of prisoners will be convicted in two years of being released, hence rehabilitation of offenders in preparation for reintegration into society is critical for crime management generally.”
He said “successful reintegration is not an easy feat and requires absolute stakeholder participation”.
“The Government understands inmates require help to move forward with their lives. In fact, for greater success rates, our system requires a network of committed individuals.
“Vision on Mission (VOM) already answered the call, and I urge more corporate bodies to get involved because collaboration is in fact the key to success, and our concern in the Ministry of National Security is crime reduction, namely aimed at reducing the prison population,” said the minister.
Prisons Commissioner Sterling Stewart lauded the programme, saying “it is geared to changing the way he (former inmate) sees his life”.
“Go back outside there,” he told the inmates, “and be law-abiding citizens because at the end of the day, when you do find yourself in here, the correctional programmes are there for your development and it will help you to think differently and act differently and will help you to break the cycle of prison.”