As Eden Law Caribbean continues its philanthropy drive, the law firm has assisted the Ministry of National Security in purchasing mattresses that are designed for sanitary purposes to enhance the living conditions of inmates at the overcrowded Richmond Hill Prison.
Headed by American-trained Lawyer, Jerry Edwin, the law firm last week Thursday, donated 55 high density 27 x 72-inch foam mattresses to the prison through the newly installed Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Merina Jessamy.
The PS thanked Edwin for the “noble gesture” before making a symbolic handover to the Commissioner of Prisons, Rupert Neckles during a brief ceremony at the Nebela factory, inside of the Frequente Industrial Park in St. George.
The mattresses are covered with what is called ‘hospital ticking,’ which is a vinyl laminated fabric that is designed to be fluid-proof, flame retardant, self-deodorising, easily cleanable, anti-static anti-fungal, mildew, tear, and stain-resistant.
“I don’t want anyone to misunderstand our motive here,” the legal counsel told reporters, as he sought to address the perception of those who may say that “prisoners or inmates do not need to be assisted,” and deserve to be punished in the worst way for the various crimes committed against society.
“I would (like to) remind everyone that there is a quote on human rights, and decency that says whatever a person’s station in life is, whoever they are, if we can assist them in any way then we assist them…” said Attorney Edwin, who also donated a small number of face masks to the prison.
The outspoken lawyer noted that although COVID-19 regulations are expected to end on April 4, the prison is “a confined facility where you have to exercise a lot more caution.”
Edwin pledged to provide future assistance in any way that he can and expressed the view that “if we as civil society, and in particular professionals, whoever we are – lawyers, doctors…if we can assist in the work of making people’s lives better we should, and we must do it. I think it’s the role of responsible citizenship.”
Commissioner Neckles who pointed that “70%” of the inmate population are between the ages of “18-40” said, the 55 mattresses would go a long way to “enhance and maintain the human rights of the inmates (and) the rehabilitation process” at the overcrowded facility, which was used as a military hospital in the late 18th century.
The building, which was converted into a prison in 1880, currently houses more than double its original capacity of 198, with 374 prisoners including five (5) females.
Commissioner Neckles indicated that bunks have been added to the dorms to accommodate the increase in the inmate population over the years.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY on Monday, Head of the Rehabilitation Programme at the Richmond Hill Prison Leon Cornwall, reiterated his call for non-custodial sentences, such as community service, and the like, to be imposed for offenders of minor and trivial offenses to lessen the overcrowded problem at the facility.
Cornwall, a former inmate at the prison after he was convicted for the murder of former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop in 1983, has headed the prisons rehabilitation programme since 2010.
He made mention of the findings of an analysis conducted some years ago, which showed that “60% of the inmates in prison are serving sentences ranging from one (1) year or less.”
Noting that this has been the case at the prison for years, he echoed Commissioner Neckles’ sentiment that the new mattresses would assist in “raising the dignity and self-esteem” of inmates,” which is “fundamental to their rehabilitation.
“Despite the fact of having offended society, they (the inmates) are still human beings with certain rights, and to be able to sleep on a decent mattress is the least that the prison can do…so, where somebody could donate mattresses that is always welcome,” he remarked.