Some penalties being proposed for inmates and officers who break the territory’s prison laws are what can be described as unsatisfactory.
According to the proposed Prison Act 2018 Bill, a prison 0fficer may only walk away with a fine not exceeding $2,000 or imprisonment of up to 18 months if they allow contraband and other items to be smuggled in or out of Her Majesty’s Prison in Balsam Ghut.
The maximum possible sentence for the prison officer who commits the aforementioned offence is the 18-month sentence AND the $2,000 fine.
An inmate found to be involved in such an offence is also subject to similar sanctions, the proposed prison bill has said.
The smuggling of items such as drugs, cellular phones, and weapons within prison walls is not uncommon in the BVI, and Health Minister Ronnie Skelton has called for some of the penalties to be ‘revised’.
While making his contribution to the debate of the bill recently, he suggested that some of the penalties seem disproportionate to the crime.
Only $100 fine to assault prison guard
Another of the proposed penalties he said needs revisiting is the one for inmates who assault prison officers.
The prison bill has proposed a fine not exceeding $100 or two months imprisonment for that crime.
“I find those things to be not appropriate,” Skelton said.
He added: “When I read the things that are being committed, some seem to be more serious than others but the penalty is the same. I think we need to, again, have a look at that.”
The Prison Act, 2018 Bill – which is currently being debated in the House of Assembly – is seeking to modernise the territory’s legal framework with respect to the management and security of prisons, as well as the rehabilitation of inmates.
If passed, it will serve as repeal and replacement to the territory’s 1999 Prison Ordinance.
Minsiter responsible for prison Myron Walwyn said he hopes to see the Bill pass in the House this week.
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