The British government is spending £25 million on building a new prison in Jamaica, where it will send hundreds of prisoners to serve their sentences under a new deal struck with the Jamaican government.
Prime minister David Cameron announced the plan today as he embarked on his first official visit to Jamaica. The United Kingdom has long wanted to deport Jamaican criminals, but the poor condition of prisons on the island has stalled such moves as the poor conditions were considered to be a risk to their human rights. The new plan neatly circumvents the problem by building a new, modern prison – so the offenders can be sent without fear and without their consent.
Not all prisoners are expected to go – only individuals who were handed sentences of four years or more and have 18 months left to serve will be sent. Deportations will start once the prison is complete in 2020, reports The Guardian. The conditions of deportation guarantee the majority of the most violent and repeat offenders will be sent home – but criminals who are near release, regardless of crime, will be able to avoid deportation and could walk free because of the 18 month stipulation.
Jamaicans are severely over-represented in the British prison population, and are the second largest foreign group after the Poles. Other groups who enjoy over-representation include Muslims, who make up over 13 per cent of prisoners despite only being 4 per cent of the official population. The Jamaican deal will join others already signed by the government with Albania, Nigeria, Somaliland, Rwanda and Libya.
Although the programme, which will be paid for from the foreign aid budget, is expected to run to £25 million it is quite possible the programme could represent an overall saving in time. There are some 600 Jamaicans in Britain’s prisons, many incarcerated for drugs and violent offences – and depending on the nature of the prisoner the bill can run to nearly £60,000 a year each. Of the 600 in the system, 300 are thought to be eligible for deportation – even at the average prisoner cost of £40,000, a saving of some £12 million a year.
Theoretically, the programme could therefore pay for itself in little over two years. David Cameron said: “It is absolutely right that foreign criminals who break our laws are properly punished but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the hardworking British taxpayer.
“That’s why this agreement is so important. It will mean Jamaican criminals are sent back home to serve their sentences, saving the British taxpayer millions of pounds but still ensuring justice is done.”
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