2770535
File picture: Prisoners at the Remand Yard at the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca.

peter.christopher

@guardian.co.tt

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi says almost 25 per cent of the country’s prison population could be granted freedom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He made the comment during yesterday’s virtual COVID-19 media briefing, as he confirmed 121 prisoners had already been granted freedom.

Al-Rawi said out of a total of 3,959 inmates in the system, 957 of them, spread across eight categories, had met the potential criteria to be sent home.

He said numerous hearings on the release of the prisoners, involving the Commissioner of Prisons, Registrar of the Supreme Court, Commissioner of Police and the Children’s Authority had been heard before Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds between April 2 and April 16.

The AG broke down the categories and related numbers as follows:

Category 1: Persons convicted of summary offences — 84 inmates.

Category 2: Persons convicted summarily of indictable offences — 62 inmates.

Category 3: Persons convicted of indictable offences — one inmate.

Category 4: Children convicted of summary and indictable offences — 33 inmates.

Category 5: Persons charged with summary offences but unable to access bail — 137 inmates.

Category 6: Children charged with summary and indictable offences, including those who were convicted but granted bail pending appeal. They all being unable to access bail — 16 inmates.

Category 7: Persons serving terms of imprisonment in default of payment of maintenance fines — 44 inmates.

Category 8: Persons convicted of summary offences, convicted summarily or indictable offences who are now in their final year of their sentence.

The eighth category he explained, “was added by way of an amendment to the court order.” He said 459 persons fell into that last category.

The Attorney General also revealed that of the 957 prisoners, the 121 already released obtained their freedom under the powers of the Commissioner of Prisons.

“I’m very pleased to tell you that since we started this exercise, 121 persons have in fact already been released out of the prisons. These are low-risk prisoners who have been monitored over the entire course of their incarceration and they have been lawfully discharged out of prison via the Commissioner of Prisons’ utilisation of this power under the prisons’ rules and Prisons’ Act.”

He also stressed that 1,115 people who are facing murder charges or convictions and could not access bail would not be considered for release, as would prisoners who have committed serious offences such as offences against the person, dangerous drugs, kidnapping, trafficking persons, rape, offences against children, all sexual offences of a particularly heavy type, anti-terrorism, firearms.