Dr Harris, who is also the Minister of National Security, said his government appreciated prison officers’ work and the country should do likewise because they add value to what is happening in the country’s prisons.
Turning to the visiting Justices of Peace of HM Prisons, Prime Minister Harris said they bring an external view to ensure that justice is not only being done but through the eyes of the general public it is seen to be done.
“I want to join the Superintendent of Prisons, Mr Junie Hodge, in offering congratulations and commendations to all who are serving in Her Majesty Prison Service,” said the Prime Minister. “The police bring them (offenders) to justice and he is expected to provide them protection and rehabilitation under the watch of Her Majesty’s Prison.”
According to the Minister of National Security, there is a need to note and appreciate that the country’s prison officers are doing a most challenging and difficult job.
“In the end it is those of our society, citizens, and residents alike, those in the court of justice determine must be separated from us, from our communities, from their families, and be put in solitary confinement in one form or another, separated from the rest of us and the ordinary going-ons in our communities,” observed Dr Harris.
“It is these people who the officers here have the challenging job of attempting to mould, to give hope and to give them a mind-set that the second chance can be theirs. I want these officers to know that your work, though challenging and risky is one that is critical to the peace and prosperity of our nation.”
The Prime Minister noted that the work of Prison Officers is special and the work is necessary. As a government, he said that they want to have high hopes that the prison officers understood what their job was and that they were doing it without fear and favour. He added that as a government they were concerned that the officers standing had to be unblemished.
He observed that reports are at times heard about contrabands in the prison, and the question asked would naturally be who took them into the prisons. The Prime Minister, who is also the Political Leader of the Peoples Labour Party (PLP) which is one of the three parties in the Unity Government, said people are left to wonder if it were the workers at the prison, the family or friends who are allowed in to visit the residents.
“We have to ensure that wherever there is vulnerability for people to do bad that we destroy that vulnerability in our system of control,” said the Prime Minister. “I would therefore want to encourage our visiting Justices that they help to provide that support by being attentive to these particular areas of concern to the society at large and to bring their experience to bear in advice, in support, and in encouragement.”
He further explained that there was the need to examine the nature of the society from which all come, knowing that it is a mixed society, where some would want bad to triumph, even as the majority would want good to triumph. He advised that the society must by its own example do good and strive to do it more regularly
He told the officers that as for the Ministry of National Security, it must have a zero tolerance for inappropriate and illicit acts within our prisons.
“We must have a fresh start and we must have the best start to what we are attempting to do,” pointed out Prime Minister Harris. “In that regard we intend as a matter of policy to ensure that we will have a lie detector within all agencies of law enforcement.”
He advised that the government had started it with the recruitment of the police, would continue it with the new recruitment at the Defence Force, and would extend it to those who are being recruited in the prison service and would extend it not only to those who are beginning but those who are at the top.
“I am pleased to report that we have started at the high level at the police and recently Police Commissioner himself was subjected to evaluation through lie-detector technology,” noted the Prime Minister. “This is important as we move ahead. The challenges of law enforcement in our country are not new, but at some point we have to draw a line in the sand.”
A warning was sent out by the Prime Minister to those who believe that they are pro-establishment that they would be protected for wrong-doing. He said there would be no protection whatsoever as the government intends to keep the society safe by ensuring that there will be no hiding place for those who wilfully and deliberately break the laws, stressing that there must be no sanctuary for them.
“The law is the law and the just law must take place,” Dr Harris advised. “If we are not going to join and draw your line in the sand for law and order and justice, then we better hush when there are shootings at our church door, when there are shootings in broad daylight, when there are shooting at our places of entertainment, because unless we are serious, and we are committed to go all the distance to bring an end to it, we will not get a reversal.”
He continued: “We want to see that leadership again being reflected in the peace and security in the community. No criminal must find a hiding place, neither in Fig Tree nor in Cleverly Hill. You who are hiding them, you who are taking money from them, you who have them being friends of your sons, and daughters, you are doing an injustice to yourself and our community, and we say we want you on board.”