|Neptune’s herculean task |
Sunday, August 13 2017
WE WELCOME the news of the approval, by Cabinet, of the appointment of a new Inspector of Prisons .
Attorney Cedric Neptune will have a herculean task ahead. He must be given the resources he needs to fulfill his new mandate .
Furthermore, there must be no repeat of the appalling one-year delay that elapsed since the expiry of the term of the last inspector, Daniel Khan .
The functions of the inspector are of utmost importance. As noted last week by president of the Law Association Douglas Mendes SC, the inspector’s role includes ensuring prison rules are complied with by those charged with guarding prisoners. The inspector must act as a watchdog, seeing after the health and welfare of people detained in jail .
“Although a person who has been convicted of a crime or who is detained pending trial is constitutionally deprived of his or her right to liberty, the other protections which the Constitution affords are not suspended in the meantime,” Mendes noted. “The inspector plays a crucial role in ensuring the State lives up to these obligations and expectations.” The criminal justice system is designed to fulfill several social aims .
One is to serve justice. Another is to protect society. And a third is to rehabilitate. None of these objectives can be fulfilled if prisoners are maltreated .
The inspector’s role is to help safeguard the integrity of the system by providing transparency and allowing for accountability. He must ensure that even those who are behind bars are not forgotten by society .
But there are also tangible matters of national security at stake .
Unjust treatment behind bars not only places prisoners at risk, it endangers society as a whole. We risk radicalising prisoners by subjecting them to degrading treatment .
When they eventually emerge from the system they will potentially return to society with an unstable mindset or a desire to enact vengeance .
Neptune’s training as an attorney is a good indicator of his ability to remain impartial in all the circumstances .
That is a quality that will be important to his performance of his legal duties. His experience as a former police officer from 1988- 2007, and as legal adviser to the Homicide Bureau of Investigation South from 2003 to 2007 gives him a unique vantage point from which to approach his duties .
However, Neptune’s background as a police officer also potentially puts him at a disadvantage. Prisoners may perceive him as being aligned to the system against which they may wish to record grievances .
It is hoped Cabinet has weighed this when it came to its decision and has determined Neptune’s experience overall readies him to overcome any obstacles he may face .
We take this opportunity to wish Neptune well and to also hail the efforts of his predecessor Daniel Khan who was a vociferous advocate of prisoners’ rights who authored the first-ever report of the inspectorate .
It is essential, moving forward, that the State ensure there is no repeat of the year-long delay that elapsed between the end of Khan’s tenure and this announcement .
One year is far too long a time for such a vital post to remain vacant .
The news of the appointment comes amid developments in relation to another key vacancy. The Police Service Commission last week announced that it has now hired the firm of KPMG TT to assist in the recruitment and selection of a new Commissioner of Police .
Unfortunately, that process is expected to take at least four more months .
In contrast, Neptune will have little time to adjust to his new role .
He will have to dive straight in. We wish him best of luck .