FROM neighbouring Guyana comes a novel idea which may be found to be useful and adaptable to our local considerations in the operations of the Trinidad and Tobago justice system.
We refer to the operations of court houses on site at prison facilities in different parts of the country. It is just one of the many ways in which varied developments among our Caricom neighbours are not afforded sufficient comparative attention in other regional jurisdictions.
In our own situation, there continues to be much loud discussion among major players, most prominent among them the Prisons Officers Association, about the delays involved, and the costs incurred, with the privatised prison transportation system. “Justice on Time”, as its slogan proclaims, has come in for loud, constant and increasing criticism by such stakeholders such of the private sector operators who have built up significant presence through this arrangement.
Whether or not the costs have been sufficiently analysed to confirm the comparisons which have been made, and whether or not the other elements of the arrangement make for greater efficiency, a new development in the Co-operative Republic presents itself for conscientious local consideration.
The authorities there have found a way to utilise containers disposed of as no longer needed for shipping. Such material for infrastructure conversion has been put to use in two instances thus far, providing courtroom facilities on site at prison compounds.
Starting at the Lusignan prison in Demerara and at the Camp Street Prison in the capital, Georgetown, some 18 containers have been retrofitted for reuse as courtrooms, employing existing advanced technology.
By this means, the expense and trouble of transporting prisoners from their cells to court houses in different parts of the country have been rendered unnecessary. Magistrates will not need to be physically present at these locations, which are equipped with flat screen monitors, internet connectivity and chairs for inmates. This immediately removes the drama and unnecessary excitement of vehicles moving at break-neck speed, with sirens blaring, along often congested roadways.
Bringing the courts to the prisoners marks a creative advance in enabling judicial hearings sooner, rather than later. Perhaps also, it presents a telling advantage, in this the age of minimising the potential spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Speaking on this element of the pluses seen in this development, Guyana’s Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, said “it will protect the prisoners, the police officers and the court staff in this regard.” As it stands at the moment, our own experience with this issue needs no new re-telling. And not having to physically be on site, judges will also remain safe from possibly contacting the virus in this manner.
This initiative, creatively and commendably considered and implemented by our Caricom neighbour to the south, presents itself to us, as one to be emulated. For one thing, we have no shortage of spare containers capable of being converted for such purposes. In addition, in this age of widely expanding virtual communication it should be possible for all the critical players and decision-makers to follow the proceedings in Guyana online, and to determine such adaptations as may prove necessary in our own circumstances.