THE Jamaican Government says plans by Britain to return foreigners imprisoned in that country — of which Jamaicans top the list — to their soil to complete their sentences cannot be done without legislative changes and mutual consent.
According to a report carried in yesterday’s edition of the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron in a bid to cut the cost of maintaining prisoners to taxpayers in that country plans to tear up agreements that convicts cannot be returned home without their consent.
According to that report, the cost of maintaining a prisoner for one year could run up to £38,000. At present, it said, Jamaicans are the most heavily represented behind Britain’s prison walls with 942 nationals, followed by Nigeria with 727, and the Irish Republic with 681.
But yesterday, Jamaica’s Security Minister Senator Dwight Nelson, responding to the report, told the Observer that the matter was not that cut and dry.
“This is a matter that the British Government will have to discuss with us. In fact, the existing arrangements were discussed by the former Prime Minister of Britain Gordon Brown with Prime Minister Bruce Golding and if there are any proposed changes then I would expect the present prime minister to also have discussions with Prime Minister Golding,” Senator Nelson said.
“In the first instance we would have to give permission for the landing of any such aircraft,” Nelson said. In addition, he said the law does not permit the Government to incarcerate any Jamaican for committing an offence outside of the country.
“… So it would be impossible right now for Jamaicans who have committed offences in Great Britain to be imprisoned in Jamaica,” Nelson said.
Asked whether there was any ground for compromise, he responded: “I don’t like to use the term compromise; I prefer to use the term discussions. It couldn’t be accommodated in so far as the prescriptions of the law are concerned now. The Jamaican Government cannot imprison a Jamaican for committing an offence abroad.”
At the same time, the security minister pointed out that Jamaica’s current arrangement with Great Britain, with respect to deported persons, has been “working well”.
Said Nelson: “We have an arrangement now for the deportation of 50 persons per month from Great Britain and if they want to make changes to that arrangement then certainly they would have to discuss the changes with us. Great Britain can’t just up and send 900 prisoners back to Jamaica. It can’t work that way.”
Senator Nelson said the deportees, under the current arrangement, were those who have committed offences such as entering the country illegally, overstaying and also persons who have committed offences and have served their sentence there.
“I want to make the point that the vast majority of deportees come from the United States, not from Great Britain, and yet it is Great Britain that is spending over $400 million to assist us in ensuring the proper rehabilitation of these deportees into the Jamaican society,” said Nelson.
“… So I think a basis exists for discussions between the Government of the UK and our Government as to what they have in mind in terms of cutting their costs by way of sending prisoners home to Jamaica. We are prepared to sit down with the British Government and have discussions,” Nelson said further.