Charge bad turnkeys with perjury
Speaking with Newsday in response to an exclusive report detailing a 2012 report by the Inspector of Prisons Daniel Khan which highlighted instances of prisons officers brutalising inmates, Richards also stated the view that the problem is not prisons officers’ conduct but rather the lawyers representing them when the State is sued by brutalised inmates.
“I am not going to deny or bury my head in the sand and say these things do not happen, but they are in the minority,” Richards said. “I don’t like this report because it gives the impression that prisons are places housing brutal animals who want to inflict harm on prisoners. Those cases are the minority.”
Richards said if officers are found to have lied in court – as is suggested in court cases covered by Khan’s report – then it is for the court and law enforcement authorities to bring criminal charges.
“If it is the case that the court finds a prisons officer has lied to the court then that court has to deal with that with a charge of perjury. The court has a responsibility to deal with that,” he said.
One case highlighted in Khan’s report involved officers who, when testifying in defence of lawsuits brought by a prisoner alleging brutality, were dishonest — manufacturing and embellishing claims.
In his report, Khan recommends that prisons officers who brutalise inmates be subject not only to internal disciplinary measures but also possibly criminal charges. However, Richards said he was not willing to go so far as to comment on this proposal.
Richards stated the view that it is the State’s lawyers who are failing, resulting in cases being lost and damages having to be paid to prisoners who allege abuse. Between September 2005 to May 2012, damages totaling $10.2 million have been paid by the State in several civil lawsuits brought by inmates involving prisons officers accused of violence against prisoners.
“I think that it is because there is poor representation by the State’s lawyers at the Solicitor General’s Department in terms of the formulation of a proper defence,” Richards said. “We see a lot of cases where I think the officer was correct in executing their duty and yet when those cases go to court we get the opposite result.” He was not able to immediately give specific details.
Minister of Justice Christlyn Moore, to whom Khan’s report was submitted last year, stated prisoners should not be subject to abuse while in prison.
“Prisoners have the right to not be abused,” she said. “Prisons are supposed to be places of incarceration, it is not about abuse. So prisoners have a right to recourse to the civil courts.”
Asked whether she would support Khan’s call for criminal charges to be considered against bad prisons officers, she said, “There is a current mechanism for dealing with cases of prisons officers abusing prisoners.” She declined further comment on the report.
"Charge bad turnkeys with perjury"