UK to send Jamaican prisoners back home and build new jail on island

cameron arrive

Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (right), looks on as Chief of Defence Staff Major General Antony Anderson is introduced to UK Prime Minister David Cameron (third right), by British High Commissioner to Jamaica David Fitton (left). (Photo: Dave Reid/JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday September 30, 2015 – More than 300 Jamaican prisoners serving time in jails in the United Kingdom (UK) will be sent back to their homeland in another five years to continue serving their sentences, under a new deal between the two countries.

The Prisoner Transfer Agreement was concluded after years of negotiations as Prime Minister David Cameron made the first visit by a UK Prime Minister to Jamaica in 14 years.

The agreement provides for the transfer of prisoners who have received sentences of four years or more and who have 18 months or more left to serve in custody. As of June 30, 2015, there were 619 Jamaican nationals in prisons in England and Wales, approximately 60 per cent of them serving sentences of four years or more, including indeterminate sentences.

The UK will also provide £25 million (US$37.8 million) from its existing aid budget to help fund the construction of a new 1,500-bed prison in Jamaica, overcoming one of the sticking points in the negotiations which had been the conditions in existing prisons in Jamaica.

The jail is expected to be built by 2020, at which time the return of Jamaican inmates will begin.

Welcoming the agreement, Cameron said: “It is absolutely right that foreign criminals who break our laws are properly punished but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the hardworking British taxpayer.”

“That’s why this agreement is so important. It will mean Jamaican criminals are sent back home to serve their sentences, saving the British taxpayer millions of pounds but still ensuring justice is done. And it will help Jamaica, by helping to provide a new prison – strengthening their criminal justice system,” he added.

The move is expected to save British taxpayers around £10 million (US$15 million) a year, as the average annual cost of a prison place in the UK is £25,900 (US$39,246).

While the UK has Prisoner Transfer Agreements with a number of countries, the new deal with Jamaica is an important step forward as Jamaicans account for the third largest group of foreign national offenders in jail in the UK.

The majority of them – 69 per cent – are serving sentences for violence and drug offences.

Cameron arrived in Jamaica yesterday on a two-day official visit. He is scheduled to leave the island after addressing a joint sitting of Parliament today and head to Grenada.

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