For whatever the reason, the Mercy Committee of T&T has seemingly been inactive over the years and there is a substantial backlog of requests by prisoners requesting pardon from the President.
This was yesterday disclosed by the Minister of National Security Stuart Young during his brief address at yesterday’s 2019 Preparation for Release Programme launch that took place at the Chapel of the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca. The programme is in its 15th year.
This year’s theme is “Keys to Successful Re-Entry.” The programme falls under the non-governmental organisation, Vision on Mission (VoM) headed by Wayne Chance.
Young said during a recent visit to one of the nation’s prisons he was approached by a prisoner who enquired from him about the Mercy Committee and pardons.
Admitting he was not too familiar, Young said when he returned to the office he made the necessary enquiries and found out more about the Mercy Committee or the Advisory Committee on Pardon, which he said is chaired by the Minister of National Security, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and four other members.
Young said there were currently hundreds of requests.
“There are so many prisoners waiting to be pardoned…I have already begun reading files from back to front and trying now to push it,” he said.
Young said he had since presided over one committee meeting and gave the assurance that the committee would at least meet once every month.
He called on corporate T&T to join in on the work to help rehabilitate and reintegrate prisoners back into society by hiring them, “giving them a chance again.”
Young promised renovated prisons including washroom facilities in cells and proper ventilation.
This year, joining and pledging its support to assist in the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society after serving their respective sentences is the European Union.
Speaking at the ceremony, Head of Delegation of the EU of T&T, Ambassador Arend Biesebroek said the EU decided to support the Vision on Mission cause so that it could assist in promoting the rights of prisoners.
Biesebroek said that he, along with other members of the EU delegation, visited all the prisons, including the Youth Training Centre to “gauge the conditions of the prisons” and admitted that they observed that the current conditions were “better than they expected.”
He, however, noted serious concerns about the prolonged remand times and the lack of follow-up of re-integrated prisoners.
Since the re-entry programme, the VoM had 598 graduates for 2018 and over its 15 years—8,381 graduates.