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More than 300 Jamaican prisoners serving time in British jails are being given the boot back to their homeland OUTGOING BRITISH HIGH COMMISSIONER DAVID FITTON
Britain still appears ready and able to construct a multi-billion-dollar prison in Jamaica once it gets the green light from that island’s government
Back in January, the Andrew Holness administration flatly rejected the offer by the UK.
Leader of Government Business Karina Johnson-Smith had told the Jamaica Parliament that the UK offer was “not beneficial to Jamaica as a whole.”
Six months later, outgoing British High Commissioner David Fitton has told the Jamaica Gleaner: “If the Government were even to want to discuss it again, my door would be open, as with my colleagues in London.”
The idea was first tabled by former British Prime Minister David Cameron during an official visit to Kingston in 2015.
The offer was reportedly made to break a deadlock in negotiations over a prison transfer deal between the two countries.
At the time, there were claims that more than 600 Jamaican nationals were in UK jails but could not be deported because of Jamaica’s poor prison conditions.
Under the terms of a non-binding memorandum of understanding signed between Jamaica and the UK in 2015, Britain was expected to transfer 300 prisoners in British jails to complete their sentences back home.
High Commissioner Fitton assured there was no bad blood between the two countries over the issue, saying that Britain respected the Government’s position.
More than 300 Jamaican prisoners serving time in British jails are being given the boot back to their homeland as Prime Minister David Cameron made the first visit by a UK Prime Minister to Jamaica in 14 years.
The prisoners will be returned back to their homelands to serve their sentence under an agreement signed by the UK and Jamaica today and concluded after years of negotiations. Cameron landed on the Caribbean island last evening. He is accompanied by Justine Greening, from the Department for International Development.
Sixty-nine percent of sentenced Jamaican prisoners were serving sentences for violence and drug offences. As of June 30, 2015, there were 619 Jamaican nationals in prisons in England and Wales. Approx 60% of these were serving sentences of 4 years or more, including indeterminate sentences.
“It is absolutely right that foreign criminals who break our laws are properly punished but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the hardworking British taxpayer,” PM Cameron commented. “That’s why this agreement is so important. It will mean Jamaican criminals are sent back home to serve their sentences, saving the British taxpayer millions of pounds but still ensuring justice is done. And it will help Jamaica, by helping to provide a new prison – strengthening their criminal justice system.”
The UK will provide £25 million from the government’s existing aid budget to help fund the construction of a new 1500 bed prison in Jamaica, overcoming one of the sticking points in the negotiations which had been the conditions in existing prisons in Jamaica. The prison is expected to be built by 2020 and from then returns will get underway.
The Prisoner Transfer Agreement is expected to save British taxpayers around £10 million a year once the first prisoners are returned from 2020 onwards.
The agreement provides for the transfer of prisoners who have received sentences of 4 years or more and who have 18 months or more left to serve in custody. The average annual cost of a prison place in the UK is £25,900.
PM Cameron is on a two-day official visit to the island where he is expected to address a joint sitting of the houses of Parliament today, Wednesday, September 30th.