EDITORIAL: Case for a parole board


THERE HAS BEEN much talk by governments for many years about establishment of a parole system in Barbados. The proposed legislation is still under consideration but given the demands for law reform, it is doubtful that it will be given precedence.
It was noteworthy to hear the Ambassador of the Delegation to the European Union to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mickael Barfod, address the issue this week. His comments must not be seen as getting into this country’s business, but highlighting an issue which the political directorate needs to bring to a resolution.
The establishment of a parole board in Barbados does not send a message that the country is taking a liberal stance and going soft on criminality, but rather such an initiative must be based on reasoned principles.
The spiralling cost of Government spending on incarceration is a reality and concern, so too is enhancing public safety following the release of a prisoner, while at the same time we need to be a more compassionate society.
Given the history of our society, some people still have the feeling that prisoners ought to be locked away and forgotten. But we need to be realistic, recognizing that prison reform must be undertaken in order to help those inmates exiting Dodds Prison, regardless of the crime to allow better assimilation into society.
There have been some uninformed comment to glamorize prison, but this is far from accurate as Dodds can be harmful to both the prisoner and his family. The result being some convicts re-entering society are creating greater public safety issues than when they first entered prison.
We must also give consideration to the victims of crime. Not only must victims be informed at the time of sentencing but they must also be alerted of any plans for conditional release and whether any conditions have been imposed on the released offender. Barbados is a small island and the destination of the released convict should also be made known to the victim.
It is also not unreasonable to ask victims to present a statement to the proposed parole board about safety concerns for themselves and the community and also what has been the continuing impact of the crime.
For the framers of the proposed legislation relating to the establishment of a parole boards we offer some suggestions.
For those considered high-risk offenders, there should be electronic monitoring; effective correctional programmes must be instituted; there must be a drug-free environment in prison; and felons must serve a mandatory period before eligibility.
Parole must be earned and not be a right after a fixed period of sentence.
This is a matter critical to this country’s justice system and should engage the attention of both non-governmental organizations and activists. It is a cause the entire society needs to address. We need to lobby for change.


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