Bunting claims negligence in Westmoreland jail break
MINISTER OF National Security Peter Bunting has cited negligence as the reason for a jailbreak that occurred in Westmoreland last week Wednesday, where four prisoners escaped from the Whithorn Police Lock-up.
One prisoner has since been recaptured.
Bunting made the comment Wednesday during a People’s National Party (PNP) Face2Face meeting at Sts Peter and Paul Church in St Andrew.
Responding to questions from a member of the audience, Bunting said that serious actions have been taken against police officers who have been derelict in their duties, hinting that there will be no difference in relations to sanctions in this matter.
“Let me just use broadly the term negligence by police officers and many have now been the subject of disciplinary action, and in some case charged criminally. But there is also the case of looking at how we can harden our facilities and that could be bearing from some of the steel bars that we have used historically; they are perhaps too soft,” he said.
The minister, at the same time, assured that there are steps being taken to retrofit a number of the country’s lock-ups.
“There are some alloyed steels and they are extremely hard — you can’t cut them with even hacksaw blade — and I think as we retrofit a number of our lock-up facilities we will replace some of these softer, older steels with the harder alloyed steels. And we also perhaps need to use more electronic detection methods; for example, we could put motion sensors on the outside of the cell so that instead of six persons squeezing through the space they have created, the first person to stick their head outside, the motion sensor would set off… and the police would respond,” he explained.
He also pointed out that the ministry is currently exploring a number of other ideas as to how best to undertake the upgrading of lock-ups across the island.
“…It takes money; we have seventy-odd lock-ups across Jamaica, the vast majority of them [being] built before independence. So it [will] take a significant investment [of] J$120 million to upgrade lock-ups at various police stations, and we will continue with that step to harden these facilities against jailbreaks,” said Bunting.
In the meantime, the security minister acknowledged that “issues of crime and national security continue to be one of the greatest challenges we face as a nation”. Bunting argued that many of the factors that affect an individual’s propensity to violence include the quality of parenting and schooling they received and has insisted that these take years to manifest and as a result, corrective work being done take years to yield results. He charged, however, that progress is being made in crime-fighting.
“In 2015 we were disappointed that the gains we had made in breaking the murder figure in 2014, the lowest in 11 years, essentially slipped back to 2013 figures. Nonetheless, it remains within the band where it had been for the last five years, 1 100 plus or minus 10 per cent. And I always urge not to make crime and violence a political football, but where persons try and do that, I feel it is incumbent of me to correct it with figures. So, for example in the four-year period 2012-2015, we had 1 369 fewer murders than in the previous four years. [It is] still way too high but some would have you believe that we are not making any progress.
“…The average number of murders per year was lower than the best year in our previous four years. So if you listen to how some speak a certain way, you would think that everything has fallen apart but that’s not true,” he said. (Jamaica Observer)