Jamaica PM says use prison sentences less

KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 25, 2008 – Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding is advocating greater use of non-custodial sentences for non-violent crimes, even though he says his administration intends to remain tough on perpetrators of serious offences.

Mr Golding, who earlier this week announced a range of measures to deal with escalating crime in the country, said a jail sentence may not be necessary for crimes that do not involve malicious violence, such as “the kind of violence that perhaps takes place in a fit of anger that does not involve murder”.

“I do believe that we need to take a serious look at them because, to the extent that these are not persons who are threats to society, we can find some other way for them to complete their punishment, rather than having them crowd the prisons,” he added.

Mr Golding was speaking specifically to the question of space rationalisation in penal institutions, in light of the proposal to introduce legislation to specify that on conviction for serious gun crimes, a person will not be eligible for parole before 10 years.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that more persons would, in fact, be serving longer periods incarcerated under the proposed law, and that discussions had been held with the Commissioner of Corrections on this matter, in relation to space.

He said there are persons in prison who do not necessarily need to be incarcerated.
“There are various procedures by which they can be taken out of prison – not necessarily released; some of them can be committed to community service. There are some that I think really ought to be referred to the Governor-General,” he said.

“When a man was sentenced at a fairly senior age for a crime, and has now got to a point where he is old and for all intent and purposes, harmless, but he still has four more years to go, there are some instances in which I think some special consideration can be given.”

Among the measures which Prime Minister Golding announced in Parliament to arrest crime in Jamaica were longer prison terms for gun crimes, a tripling of the time period suspects can be held in custody, tougher bail conditions and the use of DNA evidence in solving crimes.