Law Strengthened to Ban Electronic Devices in The Prisons

Law Strengthened to Ban Electronic Devices in The Prisons

The Senate today (Dec. 17) passed the Corrections (Amendment) Act, 2021 which will facilitate tighter control of prohibited articles being transported in and out of correctional facilities.

The Bill, which seeks to amend the Corrections Act of 1985, as well as the Correctional Institution (Adult Correctional Centre) Rules, 1991 was tabled and passed in the lower House on December 14.

In his address, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Hon. Matthew Samuda, said the rationale for the amendments arose out of a need to address the rapid technological advancements, particularly in the area of communications, which pose a challenge for the country’s correctional institutions.

“There has been an increase in the use of telecommunication devices by inmates to maintain contact with criminal networks outside of the confines of correctional institutions. As we expound on the utilisation of telecommunication devices by inmates, I want to particularly highlight that through the use of cellular telephones and electronic communication devices, incarcerated violence producers—some of whom are themselves gang leaders—have been or are able to directly and/or indirectly influence criminal gangs and drug activities.

“They give orders from inside the correctional institutions, perpetuating contract killings and gang feuds…These acts exacerbate the difficulties in controlling the level of crime we experience on a national level,” he said.

Senator Samuda said the amendment is critical for the integrity of the country’s security architecture, which is constantly under threat by criminals who are robust in their efforts to challenge the authority of the law and prejudice the safety and security of decent law abiding citizens of this country.

“This legislative amendment seeks to give one more tool in the tool box to make Jamaicans safer,” he said.

Senator Samuda said the general objectives of the amendment of the Corrections (Amendment) Bill are as follows: the introduction of electronic communication devices and computers as prohibited articles; the inclusion of definitions for the terms ‘cash’, ‘computer’, ‘data’, ‘electronic’, ‘function’, ‘intercept’, ‘programme or computer programme’; the introduction of a regime for the confiscation, destruction and disposal of prohibited articles; and the increase in fines and custodial sentences for existing provisions under the Corrections Act to make them more of a deterrent.

The legislation also introduces the following offences: having access to, use of, or possession of an electronic communication device or computer in a correctional institution; tampering with any electronic communication device or computer by an inmate; and an inmate transmitting, or causing to be transmitted, without authorisation, any data, using an electronic communication device or computer.

Other offences include an inmate intercepting or causing the interception of any function of an electronic communication device or computer; the use of a computer or electronic communication device by an individual to prejudice the safety or security of any person inside or outside of a correctional centre, the safe custody or security of an inmate, or the good order or security of a correctional centre; and the unauthorised access to, or use, or possession of a prohibited article in a correctional institution.

The legislation was passed without amendments.

Other senators who contributed to the debate were: Lambert Brown, Sophia Fraser Binns and Ransford Braham






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