Barbados examines electronic monitoring and early release of prisoners

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BGIS:– Electronic surveillance of inmates at Dodd Prison is being investigated by the Home Office.

Home Secretary Wilfred Abrahams made the point as he delivered the speech at the fainting parade of 21 new prison officers, 17 men and four women, at Dodd Prison in St. Philip yesterday.

Noting that electronic surveillance has been introduced in 30 countries around the world, Mr. Abrahams explained that it was a generic plan that encompassed several surveillance techniques and approaches.

“It’s a form of digital integration often in the form of a wrist strap or ankle shackle that can monitor an offender’s location. It is sometimes used to reduce reliance on imprisonment, monitor compliance, reduce recidivism…thus reducing the prison population,” he pointed out.

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He added that electronic monitoring, in some cases, allowed offenders to remain at home as if under a curfew and ensured that they did not enter certain prohibited areas as a condition of their release.

In addition, electronic monitoring, he said, would also ensure that offenders are in their workplaces while serving a sentence in the community, track minors, adults and others in drug treatment programs, as well as people accused of or driving under the influence.

“It therefore provides an additional level of assurance and information to better understand a person’s movements and is part of the toolkit used to manage offenders, which often includes regular risk assessments, rehabilitation programs and positive community support,” Abrahams said.

He also described it as a way to reduce prison population and overcrowding during hard times.

First-time minor offenders, people convicted of non-violent offenses or considered low-risk offenders whose imprisonment would worsen their economic and social livelihoods, would be among the most likely to benefit from an electronically managed system.

Mr Abrahams urged new prison officers to be aware of new technologies and how they could be used to protect themselves and those in their care.

He also noted that the ministry was currently reviewing the implications of implementing early release or parole to allow those who qualify, the opportunity to spend part of their sentence outside the prison setting.

“Once the required legislative changes are in place, this will become a reality in the not too distant future,” Mr. Abrahams said.

During his address, the minister urged the new prison officers to remain objective in carrying out their duties and avoid forming attachments and showing favoritism. He emphasized that the inmates in their charge were not their friends, but their wards, and that their first loyalty should be to the prison.

It also gave them the assurance that as correctional officers their role was as important as any in the criminal justice system and that they were on equal footing with other armed forces.

“Each of you has a role to play,” Mr Abrahams said, as he encouraged officers to continue taking courses for their own improvement. Four prison guards won awards at the Passing Out Parade – Bret Rice, for Best at exercise; Israel Simpson, Ideal for physical training; Nakita Dixon, for Most Improved and Nicholi Cumberbatch, for Top rookie.

Headline photo: Home Secretary Wilfred Abrahams – Archive image

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