BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - THE Superintendent of Prisons, Junie Hodge, has welcomed talk about the construction of the new prison facility in the Estridge Estate area.
Though it has been in the planning stage for a number of years, the current Team Unity Administration has been making a concerted effort to have the construction of the facility begin shortly, as the design for the penitentiary is being finalized.
Speaking at his February 1 Press Conference, Dr. Harris gave an update on the plans for the construction of the facility, disclosing that the government has already identified an architect through an open-bidding process.
Additionally, the government has included funding in the 2017 Budget for construction to begin on the proposed site.
“I am pleased to report that in 2017, we have made provision for significant work on the new correctional facility to be built in Estridge. So we have provided $2 million-plus for the design of this new facility. And the design and complete tender documents would include detailed drawings, tender documents and bills of quantities so we can put this project on a go.”
That is a welcomed announcement for officers at Her Majesty’s Prison, who have - for many years - dealt with overcrowding and associated issues.
In expressing his pleasure at the announcement, Supt. Hodge told SKNVibes that the population of the prison is currently 209, although it was initially built to accommodate some 60 residents.
“With the construction of a new facility it would go down well for the rehabilitation programmes that we have here in the prison,” Hodge said. “There are a number of programmes that we would like to have started, but because of space and the amount of officers, we can’t afford. Our human and physical resources right now do not accommodate a number of rehabilitation programmes that we have and want to have.”
He, however, noted that with the new facility coming on stream, “once it is done in the way we would like it to be, it would be a welcoming gesture”.
Though the prison facility has been overcrowded for a number of years, efforts have been made to reduce the population.
In his 2017 New Year’s Address to the nation, Prime Minister Harris had indicated that steps would be taken to address the overcrowding at the facility through the activation of the Committee of the Prerogative of Mercy.
That body would be considering clemency for certain inmates.
Hodge noted that when the facility is constructed and operational, breaches that occurred at the current venue would not be replicated, as a thorough screening process would be implemented.
“You would not see some of the breaches that you would have seen here at the new facility. Why? Because it would be by itself. We would be better able to monitor, not only the outer perimeters but the interior as well.”