Criminal Bar Association: Release 60 prisoners for independence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Port of Spain prison on Frederick Street, Port of Spain. – Photo by Sureash Cholai –

Government is considering a proposal to release 60 deserving prisoners as part of the 60th anniversary of independence, to be observed on August 31.

The suggestion was made to Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, by the recently installed executive of the Criminal Bar Association.

According to the proposal, the association has suggested that the reformed prisoners be released in batches, with the first six being released on Independence Day.

The association did not identify any of the prisoners nor the category of criminal convictions which the government should consider.

If the government adopts the association’s suggestion, the Mercy Committee which comprises the Minister of National Security, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and others will have to review each deserving case before making a recommendation to the Office of the President for applicants to be given a presidential pardon which would automatically erase their record of conviction.

The recommendation is in keeping with planned legislation the Office of the Attorney General has already drafted to give rehabilitated prisoners a second chance once they are not repeat offenders.

The draft legislation, which arose out of public consultations in 2019, proposes among other things to consider someone who has been sentenced to not more than three years as having a spent conviction, so that such people would not have with a criminal conviction.

There was no response to questions sent via WhatsApp to Armour and Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal.

In 2012, the People’s Partnership government had proposed to release 50 prisoners to commemorate TT’s 50th anniversary of independence, but the process was stalled by the deliberations of the Mercy Committee.