Lawmakers unanimously passed the Correctional Facilities Act, 2018 on Tuesday morning, overhauling the policies governing Her Majesty’s Prison.
The act — passed with yet-to-be-publicised amendments — repealed and replaced the 62-year-old Prison Ordinance (Cap. 166).
The legislation outlines prisoners’ rights and regulates the responsibilities of prison guards, among other provisions.
Until last week, it had been referred to as the Prison Act, 2018. During last week’s debate, however, Health and Social Development Minister Ronnie Skelton argued that lawmakers should change the bill’s name to reflect its goal of modernisation.
“Give it a meaning that [indicates] you plan to do something,” Mr. Skelton (R-at-large) suggested. “Because ‘prison’ carries a negative connotation.”
The act lays out different human rights protections for prisoners and establishes a “Prison Independent Monitoring Board” to inspect those protections, according to the most recently publicised draft of the legislation.
Board members will have access to every facility, record and inmate in the prison and will be required to complete periodic inspections of HMP, as well as listen to complaints and requests from prisoners.
The act also outlines the governor’s responsibility for the prison, vesting him with the duty of ensuring the security of the facility, as well as appointing the director and deputy director of prisons, according to the draft.
Additionally, the act empowers prison guards to use dogs to help them search prisoners.
Lawmakers have long pledged comprehensive prison reform of this sort: Such an act, along with accompanying rules, was promised in successive speeches from the Throne in 2014, 2016 and twice this year.