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RHONDALL FEELES, President of the Single Fathers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SFATT)

The Single Fathers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SFATT) is also supporting the Government’s move to release from prison, persons currently being held for non-criminal offences.

In a statement issued yesterday, SFATT said it had made a call this week, for those failing to pay child maintenance to not be incarcerated during the current COVID-19 crisis, and is pleased that Government also saw the merit in such a move.

“We at the SFATT support the proposal made by the Attorney General and the Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley that will include the release of persons currently incarcerated for non-criminal offences, such as Failure to Pay Child Maintenance and traffic violations,” the statement said.

It added: “Earlier this week we would have cited the overcrowded prison population, the high state costs to house an inmate and the impact of the unexpected economic downturn, as good reasoning for our call to temporarily cease issuance of new and the enforcement of existing child maintenance warrants.”

The Association said that this call was not one to discontinue the payment of child maintenance but rather, to discourage imprisonment of these non-criminal offenders during this COVID-19 pandemic period.

“All non-custodial mothers and fathers with maintenance orders, (inclusive of those about to be released and those with outstanding warrants) are asked to register unto the Court Pay Electronic Payment System so that payments can be made and received without them going to the respective courts,” the statement added.

The Association said that it sees this new proposal as a move in the right direction and added that it hopes that even after this period that our country examines less punitive and less costly measures to compel persons to comply with these non-criminal offences.

“Jail surely is not the answer,” the statement said.

The move to release prisoners comes as the Government seeks to reduce the potential of infections of COVID-19 in the prison system.

Already, prison visits from family members has been cancelled and courts have closed, minimising interactions between prisoners and the those outside.