#Grand Turk, January 29, 2019 – Turks and Caicos –
Mr. Speaker, I rise to lend my support to this Bill, the Alternative Sentencing Bill 2018.
Mr. Speaker, I want to first of all thank the staff at the Attorney General’s Chambers, the Courts, staff in my Ministry, the ministry of Home Affairs Transportation and Communication, the Social Development Department, the Police, the Prison and any other stakeholder group that would have contributed to it in any way.
Mr. Speaker, the Attorney General or the acting Attorney General at the last meeting has already given an overview of what this bill is about, and what it is proposing to do, and so there is no need for me to go over again. What I would do, Mr. Speaker, is to speak briefly about why this bill is important to our country, why it is important to the Ministry of Home Affairs Transportation and Communication, and finally why it is important to the persons this bill will impact.
Importance to our country
In keeping with this mission, the changes that will be brought about by this Bill, Mr. Speaker, have been geared towards producing a more progressive, balanced and modern criminal justice system that protects society from crime.
Mr. Speaker my attention was recently drawn to an article by the Center for Economic and Policy Research on the cost of incarceration.
In it, they said that there are four benefits of alternative sentencing.
- It saves cost because it is far less costly than placing someone in prison
- It promotes public safety because it helps individuals to address the underlying issues and factors that contribute to their criminal behavior, it keeps families together and it encourages them to be accountable for their actions
- It gives the courts more options to tailor appropriate sentences, and
- It is consistent with public attitudes: Most adults believe that probation, community service, and rehabilitative services are the appropriate components of sentences for non-violent, non-serious offenses and that jail or prison time are appropriate only when these fail.
Mr. Speaker, while the reason for us bringing this bill today is not about the cost of incarceration, the potential to improve public safety makes this bill worth passing today.
Importance for the Ministry
Mr. Speaker, the ability of the courts to issue the alternative sentencing orders is central to this bill. Of equal importance, Mr. Speaker, is the role that the staff in the Social Development Department, in my Ministry, will have to play.
They will have responsibility for
- coordinating the activities and programs of the orders
- supervising individuals
- In addition, producing the reports required by the court.
Mr. Speaker I am happy to say that my Government has already begun preparation for the implementation of this bill by supporting the creation of a Probation Parole and Rehabilitation Unit within the Social Development department.
We have also supported the department by providing funding to hire a Probation Parole and Rehabilitation Supervisor and Parole Officers this financial year. Funding to hire more Parole Officers will be given in the new financial year.
Mr. Speaker, I digress to add that with the recruitment of these officers, Mr. Speaker, we hope to improve the efficiency of the parole board and continue the groundwork for the Chance for Change programme that we spoke about in our Change Document.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that this is a BIG Deal. It is a BIG DEAL because for far long too, many of our young men leave the prison without any HOPE of ever LEARNING a new skill, or getting a job to support themselves, their families, or even contribute to society that have offended.
This programme is a high priority for us Mr. Speaker and it will become operational within the next financial year.
Mr. Speaker, it is also important to make it very clear that none of the orders in this Bill,
- The Community Service Order
- The Curfew Order
- The Expulsion Order
- The Discharge Order
- The Conditional Sentence Order
- The Intermittent Sentence Order, and
- The Suspended Sentence Supervision Order cannot be successfully implemented or executed by Probation Officers alone.
Other stakeholders such as the Police, the Private Sector, and other parts of the Public Service, the Churches and civic groups, all have a critical role to play in making this new sentencing system a success, and I encourage all of them to do so.
The most important stakeholder, however, Mr. Speaker is the person who receives an order. They are the most important stakeholder because they will be given an opportunity to make a change in their behavior.
Mr. Speaker, naturally, there are some inmates who require the most serious and intense prison security level there is, and for this reason alternative sentencing will not be an option in every case.
But, for others, it seems to make sense to not introduce them to a lifestyle that can only make them worse off in the long-run.
One commonly used alternative sentencing measure is the ability to discharge an offender without punishment, which effectively gives the offender, if they are charged with a less serious crime, a second chance.
If ordered, it is our hope that they make good use of that second chance, and make the choice to change.
Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Home Affairs with responsibility for the Department of Social Services I offer my full support to this “Alternative Sentencing Bill 2018” to ensure that we give our people the chance to turn their lives around and become contributing members of society.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you.