Issues related to the overcrowding at the local prisons was up for discussion yesterday when Attorney General, Basil Williams S.C., MP met with Mr. John McKendrick and Mr. Keith Peterson, Consultants, contracted under the Support for the Criminal Justice System Programme.
Arising from those discussions during the meeting held at the Ministry of Legal Affairs were: a pilot project to provide legal assistance to persons accused of minor and non-violent offenses in pre-trial detention.
The project also entails training activities which seeks to strengthen legal representation skills among Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and other aid providers. The project may use supervised paralegals to provide support in various legal aid tasks in prisons and police stations. Those identified are; seeking dismissal of charges, arranging diversion where appropriate, or arguing for bail and generally avoiding procedural delays.
In addition, the discussions included the implementation of a more pro-active use of alternative sentencing by the criminal justice system. The Government may consider having prisoners deferred to a rehabilitation facility for specified treatment. To this end, a study is being carried out on the appropriate treatments of substance abuse and mental health issues.