Sunday, April 5, 2009

Prison and Penal Reform in the Turks and Caicos Islands - Britain's colonial prison responsibility

Prison and Penal Reform in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands ( Advance copy – n.b. this is a pre-publication announcement and the original shall be released on the 6th April, 2009)

Courtenay Barnett has today transmitted his “Prison and Penal Reform in the Turks and Caicos Islands: A Position Paper for Improvements in the Prison System” to His Excellency, the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands ( TCI) for delivery to the Secretary of State in London, England . This scholarly work is a call to action for the British Government to fulfill a duty to the people of the TCI in regard to obligations existing under Article 73 of the United Nations Charter.

Mr. Barnett draws upon his personal experience as a defence attorney in the TCI, and his academic research to define the problems in the penal system as it currently exists and presents practical actions for mitigating them. There has been a steady rise in crime from 1986 to 2009 in the TCI, with a tendency toward more violent crimes, which can be traced to certain internal and external factors that have affected the indigenous population. As prison sentencing has increased, this increase in imprisonment has resulted in a shortage of capacity in the local prison facility. The simple choice given the Secretary of State is either to invest in building more prisons, or to invest in cost effective programmes that can reduce the need for imprisonment. The TCI is offered as a laboratory in a small controlled environment for testing policies and programmes designed to minimise recidivism.

The primary material factors contributing to the rising crime problem in the TCI are: colonial neglect; a highly skewed economic distribution accompanied by a desire for material possessions exceeding the earned income of many inhabitants; governmental and public administration corruption on the part of the colonial appointees and local elected officials; illegal migration; illegal guns; and illicit drug related activity. Realising that the TCI is not economically viable without external support, the people of the TCI have shown that they are unwilling to accept political independence. The well-being for the TCI therefore remains the legal obligation of the British Government imposed by Article 73 of the UN Charter, which states that as a member state having assumed responsibility for a territory must “…ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses.” Hence, Mr. Barnett appeals to the Secretary of State for specific grants to address these issues as a matter of legal duty towards the TCI.
Addressing income earning potential for the population between the ages of 16 to 35, the age group most prone to engage in criminal activity, he suggests that Her Majesty’s Government establishes a non-political and non-partisan office of ‘Youth Commissioner’. The main focus of this position would be: implementation of a programme to assess and guide the individuals in that age group to purposeful academic training, job skills, and placement in income earning activities. The jobs envisioned can be directly linked to national development, whether they are initiated by the private sector or the government, thereby benefiting the society as a whole.

Mr. Barnett cites illegal immigration from Haiti as directly linked to the increase in illegal arms and drugs in the TCI. He makes an urgent request to Great Britain to fund maritime border patrol of the islands, engaging the US in assistance with this effort, but not ignoring the need to provide humanely for legitimate refugees. Further, he advocates working with the US to eradicate the sources of guns and drugs flowing through Haiti and elsewhere.

‘DIMET’ is the term he has coined standing for the principles to address reform in the prison itself: Define goals for the prison; Individually structure rehabilitation for the prisoner; Monitor discipline; Educate the inmate; and, effect Transitional justice for the prisoner after release. Mr. Barnett acknowledges that there will be individuals in every society who are violent and unrepentant and who therefore are not candidates for reform. However, for the rest, it is in the interest of the society to make every attempt to work with convicted offenders to keep them from engaging in criminal activity again after they are released. He advocates a structured programme, whereby the prison has defined goals with specific and measurable outcomes at the societal and individual levels.

The paper engages the British Government at the policy level. It questions the assumptions behind merely depositing undesirables in prison. It focuses on the historically derived racism which has led to British public policy neglect of the TCI. It reflects on the real issues underlying prisoners social origins and presents practical and just solutions.

Wilberne Persaud, former head of the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies, said “A welcome eye-opening look at a problem, elements of which are much too common in our region ... perhaps exposure to a broader audience will force the authorities to act.”
It remains to be seen whether Her Majesty’s Government can appropriately and responsibly assist “the honest people of the Turks and Caicos Islands” to whom this paper is dedicated.

1. Page ii “a society . . . find” should be “a society . . .finds”
2. Page 10 "populous" twice on page 27 instead of "populace"
3. Page 19 reference to Binyam Mohamed as “citizen” is incorrect since he is a “resident” of the UK
4. Page 38 "sanitised" (sanitized in US spelling) is misspelled "sanistised".
5. The number 1 is used instead of capital I for the Roman numeral on:
Page 23, George III and Henry VIII
Page 38, William III
Pages 43, 47, 49, & 50, prisoner numbers
Only the first is a real solecism and the others might be excused for reason of typographical constraints
6. Page 32 “ on the police” should read “ harsh on the police”
7. Page 35 “ Chagossians” is misspelled “ Chaggosinas”
8. Page 41 “Bloom-Cooper” is misspelled “ Bloom-Copper”
9. Final correction: “ Change your mind and you change your outlook” - please read with that thought in mind.

N.B. Any findings of error can be forwarded to Critical comments and/or constructive suggestions are welcomed.
Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been practising law for over twenty seven years, has been arrested for defending his views, and has argued public interest and human rights cases. His web site:

POSITION PAPERS: Britain's colonial prison responsibility
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