Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Phillips to tighten parole system
Criminals to spend more time behind bars
Monday, June 24, 2002
Jamaica Observer


PHILLIPS... to tighten parole requirements

THE national security minister, Peter Phillips, says that he will toughen the regulations so that violent criminals have to serve more of their sentences in jail before being eligible for parole.

Under Jamaican law, people serving jail terms of more than 12 months, are eligible for parole after serving a third of their sentences, but should spend at least a year in prison. In the case of murder, the convict should spend at least seven years in jail.

The number of people who get parole each year and the average time parolees spent in prison was not immediately available, but Phillips, who became security minister last October, has expressed concern about the number of parolees who are quickly suspected of other violent crimes.

"It is my intention to make the required changes in policy and procedures, and to seek changes in legislation if necessary, to make it mandatory that persons convicted of murder and other violent crimes serve a higher stipulated portion of their sentence," the minister told Parliament on Wednesday.

He said, too, that people serving time for violent crimes would not be eligible for participation in the External Work Release programmes. This measure is aimed at cutting down on the number of escapes.

Earlier this year, Phillips ordered the suspension, and a thorough review, of the programme following the escape of an inmate who was serving life for non-capital murder.

That review had led to new operating guidelines, the minister said.

These include a thorough inspection of all work sites by the Jamaica Constabulary Force to ensure that there is no association with criminal elements.

There must be regular and random monitoring of the sites chosen and the inmates deployed.

"While there are some well-intentioned rehabilitation efforts, it is too easy for persons convicted of serious and violent crimes to be involved in conditional release after serving only a short period, or to be released on parole after serving less than one third of the sentence imposed by the court," the minister said.