How to Protect Prison Officers and their Families from Threats by Gang Prisoners
Bermuda prison officers have complained that imprisoned gang members are not only threatening to harm prison officers but also threatening to harm their families. These officers have argued, with good reason, that such threats place them in an untenable position that not only undermines their ability to control prisoners but also undermines the entire criminal justice system.
Clearly we can’t allow prisoners to control the prison or allow gang members to undermine the criminal justice system. So what can we do?
Section 11(2)(b) of the Bermuda Constitution specifically allows the enactment of a law that makes provision “for the removal of a person from Bermuda … to undergo imprisonment in some other country in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the law of Bermuda of which he has been convicted.”
In reliance on the authorization in the Constitution to do so, the Bermuda Legislature can enact a law that gives authority to some appropriate tribunal (e.g., Corrections Board) to order the transfer to a foreign prison of any prisoner they think appropriate after
considering a list of various factors, such as
(i) Whether the prisoner has made any threat against a prison officer or any member of his family;
(ii) Whether the prisoner has made any threat against another prisoner or any member of his family;
(iii) Whether the prisoner has made any threat against a member of the public;
(iv) Whether the prisoner is a leader of a criminal gang in which a member has threatened a prison officer, another prisoner, any of their families or friends or a member of the public;
(v) Whether the prisoner has failed to abide by the rules of the prison as applicable to him;
(vi) Where the prisoner has been actively involved with his children prior to his imprisonment, whether his transfer out of Bermuda would be detrimental to the psychological health of those children.
(vii) The cost of imprisoning the prisoner in a prison outside of Bermuda;
(viii) The amount of space available in the Bermuda prison.
The Bermuda government can protect prison officers and their families while also protecting the integrity of the criminal justice system by enacting a prisoner-transfer law, as authorized by the Bermuda Constitution. The success of this law will depend on it containing appropriate stipulations to protect the rights of all affected parties. Most
importantly, the transfer of a prisoner to a prison outside of Bermuda should not be made without the authorized tribunal first carefully weighing all of the relevant factors,including the costs and benefits to Bermuda as well as the potential adverse effects to the prisoner and members of his family.
November 23, 2011