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Overview


the crucial guarantee of both professional competence and experience combined with institutional independence. How such independence is secured may vary from country to country, but by far the most independent structure is one in which the office of Chief Inspector is directly appointed by the legislature with a duty to report to the legislature, and in which the Inspectorate has a remit which embraces both a regular programme of announced and unannounced inspections and a power to conduct thematic reviews of various aspects of prison policy, such as the use of segregation and the treatment of children and women in prison.


International instruments are quite clear in requiring that all prisons must be subject to a system of inspection which is independent of the authority responsible for administering those prisons. And James Robottom’s disturbing report on prison conditions in Jamaica makes it clear that a system of independent monitoring of prisons is now an urgent priority. Effective inspections procedures exist to protect the rights of prisoners and their families, to ensure that proper procedures exist, and to see that they are maintained by the prison administration at all times. But they also create an important protection and safeguard for prison staff, who are inevitably vulnerable to the charge of neglecting or deliberately abusing those they are required to detain. Tey also provide a great incentive to staff to excel in their jobs by acknowledging and giving due credit to individuals whose work and commitment deserve praise. It is surely high time that the recommendations of the 1991 Port of Spain Conference are finally reflected in the provisions of Jamaican law. Only such a step can secure that Jamaica’s penal system is compatible with international standards governing the treatment of prisoners.


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