Minister of State Joseph Harmon Thursday stood by the proposal that women should not be sent to prison, except in extreme cases.
The Commission of Inquiry Report into the Camp Street Prison Disturbances and Resultant Deaths of 2016 recommended that women who have committed crimes be treated differently. “Women, except in very exceptional circumstances, should not be sent to prison at all,” the report stated. The report was compiled by Justice James Patterson.
Harmon, when asked about his thoughts on the recommendation, indicated that the proposal is legitimate.
“I think what he is talking about is the facilities under which they are kept, that is what he was talking about. You can’t send women in conditions where you have men because our biological makeup is different and so, what the report was saying is that if you are going to send women to prison, you must provide the facilities for them to be in incarceration,” he said.
The report explicitly states that “Women’s role as caregivers should attract much higher priority in determining whether to imprison women at all. Long-delayed trials, venal lawyers and poorly-trained Magistrates prolong and aggravate a basically unsound method of dealing with women involved in crimes, creating over-crowding.”
The Commission of Inquiry Report stated that women are usually incarcerated because they are victims of men either by being used as drug mules or for stealing so as to feed children for whom child-fathers are not providing, or they are on murder charges for having turned violently on a brutal male partner.
Further, the report stated that most of the women in prison have either been physically and or sexually abused since childhood and in need of help, “not punishment”.
Prison is a much harsher experience for women than men, the report said, adding that an extended stay in prison usually means women emerge to find their children dispersed, their partner no longer around and their home was taken over by others. The report stated that a revolution in attitudes to women’s imprisonment is needed.
“In view of the high level of sexual abuse and exploitation to which detained women are vulnerable, prompt and thorough investigations should be carried out of all complaints of sexual harassment by any officers of the state agencies,” the COI report stated.
Of the total number of persons in prisons at the time the report was compiled, 4% were women.