PM says death of man after 40 years in custody calls for reform of judicial and penal system

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness has expressed condolences to the family of 81-year old Noel Chambers, who died after 40 years in custody at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in Kingston.

Mr. Chambers, who had been incarcerated at Tower Street since February 1980, died earlier this year after serving 40 years in prison without being tried or convicted for an offence.

            Speaking at a virtual press conference at Jamaica House on Friday, June 5, Mr. Holness made mention of Mr Chambers after commenting on his concern over the death of George Floyd in the United States. He said he was very concerned about “similar injustices” in Jamaica.

            “This is both tragic and heartbreaking and I would like to express my sincere condolences. This tragedy is undoubtedly ranked among the most dreadful inheritances of a penal and judicial system that is in urgent need of reform,” he said.

            Mr. Holness noted that the Minister of National Security, Dr. Horace Chang, has commissioned a comprehensive audit into the circumstances leading up to Mr. Chambers’ passing.

            A key outcome from the audit, he said, “will be a detailed multi-agency examination of the loopholes that may exist across the system in order to ensure that we remedy any likelihood of this situation repeating itself.”

            “This unfortunate situation must result in a complete and comprehensive overview and overhaul of the system to deal with [people in custody]

 in general and those with underlying mental and physiological conditions,” he noted.

            The Prime Minister said further that “it is my position that no one should be lost in the penal system and certainly, anyone who has served more than 35 years should be considered for release.”

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