Sunday, January 21, 2018

AG eyes Santa Rosa facility to replace Port of Spain prison


Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, second from left, accompanied by Justice Minister Emmanuel George, left, and Minister of Housing and Urban Development Dr Roodal Moonilal, right, tours Santa Rosa Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre (ECRC) yesterday. The tour comes ahead of Tuesday’s Senate debate on the Bail Amendment Bill. —Photo courtesy Office of the Attorney General

Mark Fraser

THE Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre (ECRC) in Santa Rosa is being earmarked to replace the Port of Spain prison, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has stated.

During a visit to Santa Rosa yesterday Ramlogan signalled the Government’s intention to convert the ECRC into a remand facility and replace the Port of Spain prison.

The ECRC was constructed during 2011’s state of emergency.

Ramlogan, Justice Minister Emmanuel George and Minister of Housing and Urban Development Dr Roodal Moonilal visited the site yesterday.

“The visit comes on the eve of the historic debate on the Bail Amendment Bill which will deny bail for a minimum of 120 days to a person who was already convicted and served his time for a violent, dangerous and serious crime. This Bill was passed in the House of Representatives last Friday.

The Opposition voted against the measure,” a release from the Office of the Attorney General stated yesterday.

The Bail Amendment Bill is scheduled to be debated in the Senate on Tuesday.

It requires a special constitutional majority to be passed and the Government needs the support of the Independent Senators.

“This visit was in response to the concerns raised with respect to overcrowding in the prisons in light of the fact that the ‘One Strike and You’re Out’ Bail Amendment law will lead to an increase in the number of incarceration of repeat offenders as they will be denied bail. I was extremely impressed with the facilities. The prison has a modern design and layout which includes classroom facilities, spacious cells, proper airing and exercise amenities along with entertainment,” Ramlogan is quoted as saying.

Ramlogan said the ECRC which can “comfortably house” over 400 prisoners currently has an occupancy rate of 137.

“Additional prisons can be easily constructed as the facility is favourably configured for that kind of accommodation. Over 1,200 additional prisoners can be easily housed. In addition to this, the Government has agreed to acquire the adjacent property which is currently used for warehousing. A large building is already in existence with over four acres of covered space. I am advised that the integrity of the structure is solid and it can accommodate two stories. This will give over eight acres of covered space that can be easily converted to prisons,” Ramlogan stated.

“In the long term, this can be converted into a remand facility and replace the Port of Spain prison. I am quite satisfied therefore that the capacity in our prisons is not an issue and that the legitimate concern about over-crowding will be addressed,” he said.

Ramlogan said he was cautiously optimistic about receiving the necessary support from the Independent bench.

“The legislation is long overdue and much-needed as the time had come to re-balance the scales of justice and not simply concentrate on the rights of prisoners but also on the rights of innocent law-abiding citizens,” he said.