Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 4th 2013 Contents A12
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Two weeks after prisoners at the
Remand Yard in Golden Grove
embarked on a hunger strike to high-
light their anger over the delays in the
justice system, Prisons Inspector
Daniel Khan is appealing to the prison
population to remain sensible and
reconsider their decision.
Referring to the alleged strike by pris-
oners whose relatives claimed they had
stopped eating and drinking, Khan
admitted: "The frustration of the pris-
oners due to the delays in starting their
matters is becoming apparent by their
behaviour when they appear before
judges and magistrates."
The hunger strike, which allegedly
began on May 19, continues to be denied
by prison officials.
Reflecting on a similar strike in June
2011, Khan said the move was a powerful
and effective tool to highlight the pris-
oners plights. However, he urged the
current prisoners engaged in the strike
to "drink water, eat something when
they feel weak and are well enough to
resume the strike, and also seek medical
Khan was unable to confirm reports
that two prisoners had been treated for
dehydration during the current strike.
Revealing, however, that the frustra-
tion of prisoners was mounting, Khan
spoke of an incident that occurred at
Port-of-Spain High Court three weeks
ago, when a prisoner spat upon a Legal
Aid-appointed attorney who had with-
drawn from his matter.
In another incident, a prisoner had
become mentally ill during his incar-
ceration and reports had been received
from officers at the Hall of Justice that
the prisoner had started eating light-
bulbs while locked in a cell. He said
officers were still unable to understand
how the man reached the ceiling and
was able to remove the bulbs.
He said prisoners, some of whom
had been waiting for five years and more
for their trials to begin, were now
becoming "more vocal" about what
they wanted and how the judicial delays
were affecting them.
In December 2012, Khan submitted
a 500-page report to Justice Minister
Christlyn Moore examining areas of
construction, management of the pris-
ons, discipline and mental well-being
of prisoners, and reformation.
In the report, Dr Iqbal Ghany wrote
that due to the poor conditions in the
nation s prisons, 50 per cent of long-
term incarcerated people were more
likely to suffer from mental illness than
those who remained free or the "revolv-
ing door criminals."
Khan said although prisoners beg for
their matters to begin when they appear
before a judge, "there is nothing the
judges can do."
He said out of a total of nine judges
there are two vacancies following the
elevation of former Justice Anthony
Carmona to President and the departure
of Justice Andre Mon Desir, who has
moved to another jurisdiction.
In the report is the issue of reasonable
bail and over-crowding in the prisons.
In April 2012, out of a total prison
population of approximately 3,700, pris-
oners awaiting trial were found to make
up more than 50 per cent of this num-
ber, amounting to over 1,900.
Khan stressed that a citizen of T&T
enjoyed a constitutional right to rea-
sonable bail. He said while some pris-
oners will not be entitled to bail as they
may be charged with an unbailable
offence or may be denied bail due to
their antecedents, the majority of
remanded prisoners were on bail but
cannot access it.
Khan wrote: "Judicial officers must
be more mindful of these facts when
granting bail and the bail system needs
to be revolutionised as it is unacceptable
that the prisons are crowded with
remanded prisoners who enjoy the con-
stitutional right to the presumption of
Under the heading Delays in the
Criminal Justice System, Khan s report
stated: "It is no secret that the Criminal
Justice System has an alarming backlog
of cases to try and there is serious delay
in trying matters.
"An accused person charged for an
indictable offence would spend an aver-
age of six to ten years from the date he
was charged to disposition of his crim-
inal matter. Those charged with non-
bailable offences or who are granted
bail and are unable to access bail would
spend this time in conditions which
amount to cruel and unusual punish-
According to the Judiciary s Annual
Reports of the last six years, 61 per cent
of High Court trials resulted in acquit-
tals. There is no compensation to these
freed men for having spent long periods
in poor conditions even they have been
found not guilty.
Although delays are caused by several
factors, the backlog of criminal cases
at the High Court is evident from the
fact that for the period 2009 -2010,
132 indictments were filed and only 70
were disposed of, which represented a
little more than 50 per cent.
"The majority of prisons complaints
are about the delay in hearing matters.
As the Ministry of Justice, which is the
Ministry in charge of funding the Judi-
ciary, serious investments must be made
to the criminal justice system which
would include more courts, more judges,
improvements to the Department of
Public Prosecutions and investment of
resources into the system. These invest-
ments would greatly assist the over-
crowding in prisons and alleviate much
frustration among prisoners," Khan rec-
Khan to protesting prisoners BIRDSONG POSSE
Members of the birdsong Steel Orchestra pose for a team photo during PanTrinbago's annual sports and
family day at the Edinburgh 500 Recreation Grounds, Chaguanas, last Thursday. The hundreds attending
the event were blessed with fair weather and enjoyed a day of fun-filled activities.
PHOTO: SHASTRI BOODAN
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