(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Security Minister Horace Chang says a new prison, to be constructed in Trelawny, will, among other things, cut off gang leaders from the outside world.
The security minister, who expressed concerns about the ability of prisoners to run their criminal empires from behind prison bars, said the new penal institution, scheduled to commence construction in the next financial year, will be built with “electronic hardening”.
This means advanced technology will be used to cut off electronic communication with people outside the walls of the facility.
Dr Chang said that disconnecting gang leaders from communicating with people outside is also an initiative which will result in the dismantling of criminal gangs.
“…As long as they can’t communicate, it’s likely gangs will disintegrate. So they will be without a head. Of course, sometimes a new head will emerge, but it’s much easier to dismantle a gang once the leader is totally separated from them,” Dr Chang said.
He could not immediately provide the capacity of the newly proposed penal facility, but explained that Government was looking at about 30 cells to cage gang leaders.
“I can’t give you a figure on the capacity. We are still planning, but we would want about 30 cells of that type. Those will not be the only cells. We want about 30 cells for leaders who continue to manage their empire from inside the prison,” he stated.
The security minister said the announced construction of the new prison is timely as “we need some more space”.
“The population has grown and we also need more modern structures; some of them are rather very old and in bad condition,” Dr Chang noted.
He added: “We also need some safer ones (prisons), because one of the problems we are having is that prisoners communicate and build their empires from inside the prisons.”
Speaking to reporters following his address at the 33rd Annual Pharmaceutical Conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Saturday, Dr Chang disclosed that the proposed site of the new prison is “a section of Long Pond which is remote”.
However, he scoffed at suggestions that his Government might now accept Britain’s £25-million prison gift to the country — a posture which his party has maintained ever since the offer was made in 2015, while the Jamaica Labour Party was in Opposition.
“That is part of history,” Dr Chang responded to the Jamaica Observer’s enquiry of whether the offer would now be considered.
In 2015, then British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that his Government would help fund the construction of a prison here, but a major condition was that Jamaicans incarcerated in England would complete their sentences at that facility.