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2004-04-01 20:52:45

When Nature Calls

''Do you know that in 2004, prison inmates are still defecating in plastic bags and they have to wait until the end of the day for those things to be removed from the prison and disposed?''

"That is certainly unsanitary and it also is not correct."

Posing the question to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Cynthia Pratt in Parliament on Wednesday, Mount Moriah representative Keod Smith called for more "humane" practices at Her Majesty's Prison.

Although DPM Pratt was not present at the time, Mr Smith continued, "I am placing the question to the Minister to ask her how soon and for her to lay on the table as soon as possible, some kind of critical path as to when we might have new prison environs, [and] when we may be able to put in place a new system by which people who are incarcerated can in fact receive the kind of humane treatment that they are supposed to."

"I wait very eagerly for that to be done," he said.

Leader of Government business in the House, Vincent Peet, said he would relay Mr Smith's concerns to the national security minister.

Toilets in cells

In a press statement to the Guardian on Wednesday, Mr Smith said each cell should be provided with flushing toilets, and inmates should no longer have to wait until someone "comes with a wheelbarrow" to dispose of the excrement.

"Certainly this is inhumane. Certainly this is unsanitary. Certainly this must be wrong morally, socially and legally," he said.

Such treatment, Mr Smith asserted, led to recidivism and increasing levels of anger and frustration being taken out on society. This kind of attitude, he said, was made worse when the "ball and chain" of prison was strapped to the ankles of people who had paid their debt to society and were trying to travel a "righteous path" in society.

Press 'ignored' other issues

Shifting his focus in the House from prison conditions, the Mount Moriah Member of Parliament then accused the press of "misleading" the public concerning a demonstration in Rawson Square last week.

In addition to several allegations made, later characterised as "libellous" by Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, a number of persons, some former convicts, called for the release of still-detained Samuel "90" Knowles, who faces extradition to the United States on drug conspiracy charges.

Suggesting that the demonstrators' complaints about degrading treatment and punishment of inmates at Fox Hill Prison were largely ignored, Mr Smith said, "I wish to ask this House to take a careful note of what it was that these young persons were talking about last week. It is very clear what it was, and it certainly was not what was presented and what was published."

In his press release, Mr Smith said that in addition to the matter of Mr Knowles' extradition, the "young demonstrators," many of them residents of his constituency, with a number having either spent time or heard of the "horrendous" conditions at HMP, also "campaigned" about: School expulsion; expunging criminal records "in accordance with the law"; unsavoury prison conditions and delayed justice.

Dialogue opportunity missed

Mr Smith said he was disappointed that not many Parliamentarians saw it "sufficiently worthy" to engage in discussions and dialogue with the protestors.

He said he wished to "remind" his colleagues that as elected representatives, they must "be the voice of the voiceless and the strength of the weak."

Although many persons were apparently of the view that prisoners should face inhumane conditions, Mr Smith said, it was wrong, and everyone was affected.

Tamara McKenzie, The Nassau Guardian 

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