UK to build £25m prison in Jamaica


The UK will spend £25m on building a prison on the Caribbean island, so that Jamaican prisoners can be sent home to serve sentences. 



David Cameron announced the commitment at the beginning of his trip to Jamaica. The deal is the culmination of almost a decade of negotiations between the UK and Jamaican governments, with the aim at breaking a deadlock that currently exists between the two countries regarding a prisoner transfer deal.

Mr Cameron stressed that it is "absolutely right" that foreign criminals get sufficient punishment, but this should not be paid for by the "hard working British taxpayer". In June 2015 there were more than 600 Jamaican citizens in UK prisons, with 7 out of 10 of them serving sentences for drug or violence related crime. In the current environment these prisoners cannot be deported, as the prison conditions in Jamaica are so low. 

Eyebrows are expected to be raised at the UK's foreign aid budget being spent on a prison in Jamaica, but there will be a significant long-term saving by taking this route. The average annual overall cost of a prison place in the UK is estimated to be around £36,000, according to the National Offender Management Service. That means that 600 prisoners in the UK would currently cost around £21.6m annually. The scheme, which expects to begin in 2020 is expected to save taxpayers over £10m annually and will see more than 300 existing offenders sent back under the Jamaican prison scheme rules, which covers those sentenced to at least four years who have 18 months or more left to serve in custody.

Despite this deal finally being agreed, it could still be challenged under human rights laws by Jamaican prisoners who have family ties in the UK and do not want to return. Frances Crook, from the Howard League, said it would not solve the problem of overcrowding in British prisons and that without British support for the running of the Jamaican prison, it would quickly deteriorate and leave the UK with the same problem that currently exists - not being able to deport Jamaican prisoners because of the poor quality of prisons.



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