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Belle Isle Prison officially opens

Belle Isle Prison officially opens

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Most prisoners housed at the cramped and dilapidated prison in Kingstown will be transferred to the new Belle Isle Correctional Facility before year’s end.{{more}}

Addressing hundreds of persons at the opening of the new facility on Thursday, October 22, 2009, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said minimum security inmates will be the first to be transferred to the new penitentiary.

The first phase of the prison was built at a cost of EC$18.7 million.

It is designed to accommodate 288 inmates.

This facility is equipped with 32 dormitories which will house nine inmates each.

The first phase also includes an administrative block, which will hold the magistrate’s court and office, the processing room for inmates, a visitation centre, clerical offices, welfare office, lawyers’ office, counselling office, and a conference room. It also has a kitchen block, inclusive of dining facilities, a laundry facility, a gate station, and staff quarters to accommodate 35 officers.

The medium and maximum security prisoners remain in Kingstown until the second phase is completed.

Phase Two of the prison got started on April 20 this year. In this section there will be a mechanical shop, a welding shop, a carpenter’s shop, a tailor shop, a medical facility, a religious facility, and class rooms. A completion date is set for August 2010.

“There are people who will be saying well why you didn’t take that $18.7 million and build some more houses and give poor people. That’s fair, you know, but what about storing up problems by having a terrible prison system,” said Gonsalves. He said this prison is built to meet international standards required to house prisoners.

“I know that a popular view is that you lock them up and that you throw away the key…it is not in my humble submission a correct reaction,” said Gonsalves.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said his administration wants prisoners to come out better than when they went in, “And not to come out closer to animals in the jungle than civilized human beings.”

The prison facility occupies 56 acres of land. The fenced area occupies 11 acres and the building takes up three acres.

Godfred Pompey, Permanent Secretary in Minister of National Security, said various possible sites for construction of the penitentiary were visited, including areas at Langley Park, Colonarie, San Souci, Diamond Estate, Fenton, Fort Charlotte, Ruthland Vale, Cumberland, and Richmond. He noted at one point the all clear was issued for Bois Den, but following further assessment when the undergrowth was cut, it was realised that the land did not suit the project.

Minister of Telecommunications Dr. Jerrol Thompson disclosed that the prisoners have an annual budget between $1.2 to $1.5 million dollars for food. He expressed the desire for them to become self sufficient by providing most of their food and save some of funds that foot the huge food bill.(HN)

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