Britain’s “Gift” to Jamaica

portia simpson and david cameron

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson and UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron – Photo

The United Kingdom’s (U.K.) Prime Minister has literally dropped a bomb on the already undeveloped country of Jamaica when it was confirmed by the Jamaica Gleaner that his country will be contributing 25 million pounds towards the cost of a prison to house the criminals of Jamaican parentage and of Jamaican nationality and citizenship who have been incarcerated in the U.K.

Statistics show that 3% of the criminal population in the U.K. are of Jamaican parentage or nationality, and this decision was made on the basis of the increasing difficulty to “keep them” in Britain and thus plans are being made to ensure that they continue to serve their time in their home country.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the facility is slated to house between 1,500 and 2,000 inmates. Up to three hundred Jamaican inmates in the U.K. will be deported and transferred to this new prison to complete their sentences.

Outlined by the MOU, the important elements suggest:

  • The U.K. government has committed a grant of 25 million British pounds for the construction of the new prison and an addition five and a half million British pounds towards the reintegration and resettlement of prisoners.

The benefits to Jamaica as outlined by the same press releases suggest that:

  • The new prison would allow the Department of Correctional Services to abandon the 17th and 19th century prisons that house these prisoners in harsh and dilapidated facilities.
  • The design of the new facility will increase rehabilitation as well as security and operational efficiency
  • There will be a redevelopment of large green fields in Downtown Kingston and Spanish Town now that those prisons would be removed.
David Cameron - photo

David Cameron (c) – photo

However, it has been argued that Jamaicans incarcerated in the U.K. is in fact Jamaica’s responsibility. Also, how are we so sure that the influences in Britain did not impact the lives of these prisoners, in that not all prisoners are born and grown with the Jamaican “criminal gene”?

“We do not accept that a Jamaican who has lived in the UK from a young age, and who has been formed by that society, who commits crimes there should be sent back to Jamaica to serve his/her sentence, whether in part or as a whole.”  – The youth arm of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) 

“When they left Jamaica, chances are they were not criminals. Those crimes were committed on their soil. I will not accept that they are Jamaica’s responsibility. They make us look back and give us a bad reputation, but they are not our responsibility.” – Jamaican citizen

One question that has been going around is, with all that is happening in the country, how is the government going to facilitate this new addition, in other words, how are they going ensure that the institution is maintained effectively?

“It costs Britain 10 million pounds annually to maintain these prisoners, how much will it cost Jamaica? In our current situation this is an unwise decision.” – R. Campbell, Jamaican citizen

Both youth divisions of both political parties say that the government should dismiss the offer of the prison:

“The proposed 25 million British pounds represents only 40 percent of the projected cost of the prison, and the government and people of Jamaica would be expected to provide the additional sixty percent or an equated $6.75 billion….If we were to assume that the prison would house 500 inmates, a rough back of the envelope calculation of a maintenance cost of $2000 per day/ per inmate (J$2000 x 365 days) would amount to $730,000 per inmate per annum. At this rough estimate, the housing of 500 inmates would cost the government $365M per year…. This would in turn save Britain’s taxpayers an estimated 10 million British pounds per year when this transfer of inmates commences in 2020.” – People’s National Party Youth Organization (PNPYO)

 “The cost to operate the prison will set back the Jamaican people. Jamaica does not have the financial resources to operate a new prison at this time and it would mean more taxes of the backs of the Jamaican people.”  – Youth Jamaica, youth arm of the JLP

Defense attorney Miguel Lorne states that the priority should be to increase the Jamaican state and lessen the prison population and this prison addition is doing the opposite.

“This is total rubbish and total disrespect. Reparation is not begging, it is an issue that Britain will have to deal with one day. To come and visit from England and what we see him bring is a prison? That is not our priority. Our priority should lessen the prison population.” – Miguel Lorne, defender of Pan – Africanism

Even the leader of the opposition, Mr. Andrew Holness, rejected the offer of the prison with derision, responding that Cameron should’ve paid more attention to the calls for the reparation claim.

“The key lesson here is that education our people, especially as it relates to skills training, is the best way to spur human development, support a growth agenda, and keep them out of prison. Indeed, schools contribute more to economic growth and human development than do prisons.” – Mr. Andrew Holness

Britain should be looking towards stopping the root cause of criminals, however it seems that they cannot upkeep the lifestyle of these prisoners and as such they are transporting them back to their homeland. Needless to say, the prime minister intends to only cover 40% of infrastructure costs for said new-state of the art prison and Jamaica has to find the remainder in addition to years of maintenance costs.

“Mr. Cameron has a commendable record on development spending, but it is a bitter irony that he is in Kingston to explain how this will be spent on a new jail. Given the history, Britain really ought to have come up with a better way to unlock a brighter Jamaican future.”  – Writer from The Guardian

Some citizens of Jamaica find that this offer holds merit on the part of Britain, stating that Jamaicans incarcerated in Britain and the world is the responsibility of Jamaica:

“At first, open hearing of his intention to visit and his plan to build a new prison, I was disappointed. But after thinking this through, his proposal holds some serious merit. It’s unfair for convicted Jamaicans to be benefitting from the taxes of the UK citizens which are used to run their prison system, because we don’t have the capacity to accept these deportees. In all fairness, their crimes in the UK are our responsibility and if anything we should even be grateful that Mr. Cameron has extended such a courtesy to help us increase our capacity to hold prisoners. What we need to do now is look at creative ways we can put our prisoners to “work” their sentences and assist in building the economy. Mr. Cameron’s proposal for heightening the trade surplus of both our nations is welcomed and commendable.”  – Jamaican citizen, University student.

While most take to social media expressing their anger and disgruntlement with this decision stating that the Jamaican population is being put back from whence they came.

I am not bashing the prison gift, or even the grants from the PM.  We need correctional facilities in Jamaica given how inhumane some of them are. However I strongly disagree to the terms of this contract that would have Jamaica covering 60% of the expenses of this deal. The Jamaican government should reject the offer because we cannot be wholly responsible for this move… This plan was in pipeline for years, thankfully Mr. Golding rejected it when Gordon proposed it while JLP was in power.This “gift” is a grave insult to the Jamaican people, telling us to also forget about the black holocaust when two years ago he told the Jews to never forget their past but view it with the future in mind… Our leaders sat in parliament and have this man tell us that we should forget what the UK did to our people as reparation is not the answer…I am very concerned about my country, clearly something is gravely wrong with our way of operating it.

Jamaica owes the world financial community a lot of money, Jamaica is having trouble maintaining its education and healthcare sectors. Jamaica is even having trouble finding water to drink during this period of drought.

The Jamaican population is drowning in a sea of taxes, trying to make ends meet. Jamaica is a developing country, where majority of the population is affected greatly by the pangs of poverty. Not to say that it’s Britain’s problem to maintain the prisoners, but look on the state of Jamaica, and look on the fact that the responsibility of Jamaicans in the U.K. is not that of Jamaica, but the possible living conditions or the influence the society has on them.

There are Americans, Asians, etc. living in the U.K. and with all possible nationalities and races, they become incarcerated. Are they going to send them back to their respective countries? Or is it that they are not as big a problem as the Jamaicans?

This is not uplifting. This is to say they don’t want to deal with this anymore so send them back. This is to say that these people are so far gone there is no point of return so let’s not try to increase the probability of change in these individuals, but just create another prison for them to live the rest of their days; but in their homeland.

 “Jamaica has to consider its well-entrenched problem of criminality. This agreement will only compound our domestic crime situation and for the government to try to talk up the so called benefits of their arrangement is to try to pull wool over our eyes, we are offered a 6 for a 9, plain and simple.”  – The youth arm of the JLP.

david cameron

David Cameron – photo

How does adding more prisoners to an already high criminal infested country help? Is this what the rest of the world thinks of us? Are we really going to stand and let this happen?

“Since Britain would protect their taxpayers from foreign born criminals, we believe that our parliament should protect our taxpayers from foreign bred and potentially dangerous criminals.” –President Howard Chamberlain of the Youth Jamaica

It is the hope of many  that the Jamaican parliament listens to the views of the Jamaican people to which they serve and do so justly. We only hope that this uproar only grants the nation a push in the right direction and the detriment of the country is avoided.

If others don’t have hope for anything good of this nation, how will we have hope in ourselves?

By Alexandra Daley



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