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Hinds: Electronic bracelets for prisoners taking too long

Published: 
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Six years after passage of legislation:
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Vel Lewis, centre, answers questions during the JSC meeting yesterday. PICTURE OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT

Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and chairman of a Joint Select Committee of Parliament on National Security Fitzgerald Hinds has expressed concern that in the face of a worsening crime situation six years after the passage of legislation which legalises electronic bracelets, was “horribly behind schedule,” but officials are assuring that they are now looking at a November 2018 implementation with testing to be done in August.

Ministry of National Security officials charged with implementing the Administration of Justice (Electronic Monitoring Act) 2012, through the Electronic Monitoring System Implementation Committee, appeared before the JSC yesterday admitting there have been challenges in executing the project.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security Vel Lewis explained that implementation of the electronic bracelets initiative required among other things, approval of the appropriate devices, an electronic solutions provider, approval of a police response mechanism, incorporation of electronic monitoring into the judiciary sentencing guidelines and regulations to give life to the Act.

Lewis said the Implementation Committee has held consultations with the various arms of the State, including the Judiciary, the AG’s office and the Office of the DPP and a core electronic monitoring unit staff is on board and operating out of offices on Tragarete Road, in Port-of-Spain. Full staff, he said, will be brought on board when a provider is identified.

The ministry, he said, had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with iGovTT for provision of procurement services for the electronic provider. Proposals inviting tenders have been advertised and the Ministry of National Security has completed a draft policy for regulations while documents have been compiled for Cabinet.

The Police Commissioner has also approved a police response mechanism and the police have started sensitising officers about implementation of the system.

But Hinds was concerned that timelines for implementation of the system—which came about because of a “logical and irresistible call”—that the Remand Yard was “persistently over-crowded” and that led to a number of problems and this seemed to have gone out of whack.

Hinds said the issue had become “ultra-urgent…is past due really” against the backdrop of “genuine public outcry and pain about some of the matters that are daily occurrences in Trinidad and Tobago as it relates to crime and crime management.”

He recalled that in July last year the Cabinet decided to eliminate the need for a pilot project “to a national project.”

Hinds explained that when the legislation was passed in 2012, “we were hoping to begin to monitor electronically persons who were pending trial and persons sentenced by way of application of these so-called Bracelets.”

He said the devices made it easy to monitor where the persons are “and they are expected to keep boundaries and limits even in the instance of domestic violence.”

The aim, he said, is to “make society safer and to make the prison environment more efficient.”

Committee member Roodal Moonilal questioned whether the Prison Service is prepared for the introduction of the regime.

However, Deputy Prison Commissioner Dennis Pulchan said the role of the Prison Service in the initiative is “very minimal,” although they will “benefit tremendously from the process.”

He said once implemented “it will ease overcrowding,” but the more important role is for the police.

Manager of the Electronic Monitoring system Desmond Hamilton said while the system has the capacity to cater for 2,000 bracelets, the committee had determined “we should not go beyond 300 bracelets in the first instance.”

Hamilton assured that despite delays “based on procurement of the provider, the testing phase is expected to begin in August 2018 and testing, training of staff and commissioning will be completed for full roll out by mid-November.”

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