Presenting on the Bill, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, the Honourable Timothy Harris, said that the Bill before the Honourable House is simple.
“It is intended simply to update certain references in the law to bring them more in keeping with contemporary practices. In this case, the reference in the Prison Act to the position of ‘Superintendent of Prisons’ is being proposed to be amended to be ‘Commissioner of Corrections’ and hence thereafter wherever the former would appear it would be replaced by the new nomenclature of Commissioner of Corrections,” said the prime minister.
“Mr. Speaker, this is more the modern expression that reflects the enhanced role and responsibility and duty of the office holder. It is intended Mr. Speaker or we in the team unity administration are hoping to initiate a major reform process of the current approach to incarceration of prisoners, their treatment during their time in custody, as well as to deal with the matter of rehabilitation.”
The Minister of National Security added that the laws of St. Kitts and Nevis must continue to adapt and be adapted as we ourselves move through life and times and all the imperatives of staying current and relevant and in tune with the evolutions in our democratic construct.”
He stated that the government is playing its part to create a friendlier society.
“My government wants to create a more ennobling society – kinder, gentler, more forgiving and empowering. The traditional punitive conception of our prisons and the attitude that those who inhabit our prisons are societal outcast must no longer have currency and relevance. A new kind of enlightened leadership is required to lead our ‘prisons’. “And the use of the now more modern descriptor of Commissioner of Corrections is in keeping with the new ethos of rehabilitation, reducing recidivism, and empowering inmates to face society anew, and better adjusted.”
Prime Minister Harris added that the amendments to the Prison Act are important for the country. He referred to countries within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), namely Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica that have already moved to upgrade the administrative structure to the prison service and appointed a Commissioner of Prisons as Head of the Prison Service.
According to Prime Minister Harris the amendments to the Prison Act make provision for a Commissioner of Corrections who has overall responsibility for the prison, a Deputy Commissioner of Corrections who will be given responsibility for designated Operations, and a Chaplain who can provide spiritual guidance and counseling support for inmates to prepare them and assist them in the reintegration and rehabilitation process.
The Prison (Extramural Sentences) (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the Eastern Supreme Court (St. Christopher and Nevis) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2019 were also passed in the National Assembly.