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Prison CP - July 2005

Corpun file 16169

Royal Gazette, Hamilton, 13 July 2005

UBP: Bring back the birch

Shadow Home Affairs minister Maxwell Burgess says Island should consider corporal punishment

UBP Home Affairs spokesman Maxwell Burgess has called for the birch and cat-o'-nine tails for prisoners who fail to toe the line when jailed.

And he said inmates should be put to work to help pay back victims as well as the taxpayer.

He joined the chorus for changing Westgate from being a glorified holiday home to a place to be feared.

Mr. Burgess supported recent comments by Prison Officers Association leader Craig Clarke who spoke out over a growing number of prisoners who showed no interest in rehabilitating.

Mr. Clarke had called for mandatory work programmes, 23-hour lock down and even boot camps for prisoners who did not conform.

Mr. Burgess told The Royal Gazette: "When I was a boy there were a number of people who were whipped on the way in and whipped on the way out."

He said those who had said violence begot violence had been proved wrong as violence was far more prevalent now than when corporal punishment was used in prison with the use of the birch and the cat-o'-nine tails.

"Maybe it's something we ought to have a look at again."

Mr. Burgess said those who wanted to rehabilitate should be given programmes and every encouragement.

"But those who say they are not interested put them back to work from the day they come. If someone decides to be a perpetual criminal then he's a burden on the purse, we should seek ways to redress that burden."

Bermuda has the second highest incarceration rate in the world and spends nearly $62,000 a year on each prisoner. Recidivism is now running at 70 percent.

One option was to put inmates to work maintaining Westgate and restoring the dilapidated Casemates building which is now overgrown and in a terrible state of repair, said Mr. Burgess. He added payback should be brought closer to home. "If someone breaks into someone's house and steals $2,000 and they are sent to prison they should be made to pay that back.

"If carpenter busts through the door to take the $2,000 make him pay back the $2,000 and also fix the door."

He said there were all kinds of Government projects prisoners could be used for including sweeping the roads.

"It should not be 'operation cool out,' people should not be looking to kick their feet up and enjoy the good life.

"Something is wrong when a man finds prison in his country is more comfortable than the home he slept in the night before he got sentenced. We have to get where there are repercussions. Prison when I was a little boy was one place I never, ever wanted to be."

Now criminals were boasting they did time said Mr. Burgess.

He fears Bermuda's prisons will be filled to bursting with the weight of recent legislation increasing sentences.


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