Carrera Island Prison is to be shut down by the end of the year.
Making the announcement was Justice Minister Christlyn Moore, who told yesterday's post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair: "Cabinet has agreed to the closure of Carrera Prison by December 2013. The Carrera Prison was established to house approximately 185 inmates. Although it was redesigned, the population that it currently houses is well above the design capacity. In addition, it poses peculiar challenges both for visitors to the inmates, as well as the carriage of water and goods to the island.
"Cabinet has agreed to close the facility by the end of the year and to rehouse the inmates at the Maximium Security Prison (in Arouca). Cabinet also agreed for certain upgrades to occur at that prison in order to facilitate the prisoner transfer."
Carrera Prison, which currently has more than 300 inmates, has been used since colonial times. The island is just off the Chaguaramas peninsula in the Gulf of Paria.
Moore said there was "physical room" at the Maximium Security Prison (MSP). She said the question of moving the inmates to the Santa Rosa Facility was not considered by Cabinet because MSP had the space, the level of security and the technology.
Stating that certain security features were being upgraded, she said: "It is a more appropriate area for these particular set of inmates."
She said because of the likelihood that Carrera, left abandoned, could be used for "unsavoury purposes", it was agreed that the Ministry of National Security would take over the facility.
Responding to criticisms from her predecessor, former justice minister Herbert Volney, that many of the programmes to aggressively deal with improvements to the justice system had gone cold under her watch, Moore said: "I have no control of those (statements). And quite frankly it would be rude and inappropriate of me to join those discussions. It has been wide and deep and I would prefer to stay out of that particular affray."
On the issue of the Port of Spain Prison on Frederick Street, Moore said it was a disturbing experience to visit.
"The Ministry is actively engaged in a partnership with the Commissioner of Prisons and all our stakeholders with regard to closing that facility as well. It is the subject of investigation. It is not before Cabinet, but it is a goal that we are actively working on... I have seen the prison, I have toured the prison. I agree that the prison should not continue.
"And we are making every effort to find a way to end the era that is the Port of Spain Prison. But as for guarantees (that it would be closing soon), that would be asking a bit too much. Give us an opportunity to see how it is done. I take the point that you heard this before. This issue has been bedeviling several governments and there has to be a reason why (this is so)... We are making a valiant attempt."
Moore said she was hoping to bring a note to Cabinet within three months, but it may be "an ambitious hope".