Leading Defence Attorney, Anselm Clouden would like the relevant authorities in Grenada to seek assistance from friendly donor countries for the construction of a new prison.
According to Clouden serious reforms are needed at Her Majesty’s Prison at Richmond Hill due to its deplorable conditions.
He lamented the fact that instead of the facility rehabilitating and reforming the individuals who are sent there by the local courts, upon release they are found to be worse than when they went in.
Speaking to The New Today newspaper in an interview, the outspoken lawyer identified the fact that juveniles are house there along with criminals as one of the most troubling aspects of the prison.
“You have young people, ages 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 being sent to Her Majesty’s Prison. I saw a little boy up there, he couldn’t be more than 13 years old and our system cannot give up, don’t mind how mischievous he is, you cannot give up on our young people and therefore, it’s about time that we find a juvenile facility,” he said.
Clouden made a plea for the one-year old Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration to arrest the situation with urgency and get young people into institutions where they can be trained and re-trained, and then become re-assimilated into society as more productive citizens.
“The future is in the young people’s hands, those of us have gone beyond a certain age limit, we know that and therefore, it is incumbent on us to ensure that our youth are given the best opportunity for their human and economic development,” he added.
Clouden reiterated calls by several others in the legal profession that Grenada needs a new prison and it must be one that has the capabilities to reform and rehabilitate inmates upon being sent to prison.
“Yes, prison is punishment but there is more to it, there is rehabilitation, reform, and education. There is development – social and economical – so it’s not only restricted to punishment. Punishment is only one aspect of it, It acts as deterrence but once you get over the deterrent effect, then you look to the rehabilitative and reformative and this is what we lack in our institution,” he explained.
The city barrister recalled that in past years, the prison used to see people going up there to teach classes to inmates.
In addition, he said that when “other inmates” were there, they instituted an academic programme which benefited a lot of people who couldn’t read and write”, he said.
“Ultimately they (some inmates) came out with school leaving passes, GCE passes but that no longer appears there, those who engineered that programme are now released,” he added.
This is a clear reference to the role played by the former revolutionary leaders like ex-Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and army chiefs Ewart Layne. Liam James and General Hudson Austin who served long prison sentences after being convicted for the 1983 bloody murder of leftist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and three Cabinet colleagues.
According to Clouden, his dream is for a new prison facility that would allow for inmates to become certified working agents of society upon their release.
“If young people go there for example and they want to pursue an academic career you should be able to have teachers from the secondary institutions attending the prison to conduct classes to increase their literacy.
Those who want to do plumbing, there should be a special wing of the prison dealing with (a) variety of technical courses so that when they leave prison they’re properly certified.
Despite the over-crowding of the prison and the absence of a new prison, Clouden told The New Today that there is need to have frequent detailed inspections of the prison by prison authorities and for the conditions to be reported to the appropriate authorities.
He added that if there is no prison committee in existence to investigate prison conditions on a regular basis, the fact of the matter is that overcrowding in prison leads to further degrading conditions.
Clouden also pointed out that the Richmond Hill prison is desperately in need of a psychiatric wing to attend to the needs of person who may be in need of psychiatric care.
“We do have certain inmates who are psychiatrically in need of protection or in need of treatment but they’re sentenced to prison but there is a dearth of legislation here that says if a person is psychiatrically challenged then he ought not to be sent to a prison, he ought to be sent to an institution,” he said.