Have you ever wondered how much does it cost to feed the inmates in Jamaica’s prison system? Well, according to a report published recently by the Jamaica Observer, that figure is over a whopping half a billion dollars per year.
Jamaica reportedly has a prison population of about 3700 inmates and in 2020, an estimated $13,000 is used to feed each per month.
The revised Estimates of Expenditure for the 2021/2022 financial year for food for prisoners is $527,374,000 million, however, the Government will now be considering dietary needs for the 2022/2023 financial year which will significantly raise the budget to $581,431,000.
According to a correctional officer at one of the country’s maximum-security prisons, he is of the view that the prisons are being used as a “money-making thing” for the government and expressed his concerns about the outstanding amount being spent to feed inmates. He then implored the Auditor General Department to do an audit of the operation at the prisons to see where the money allocated for upkeep is being spent.
Additionally, the issue of prisoners being sentenced to hard labour but are not actually doing any labour is of much debate in Jamaica and of much concern to taxpayers. As it relates to this, questions were raised about the use of the country’s two farming prisons; Richmond Adult Correctional Facility in St Mary and the Tamarind Farm Correctional Centre in St Catherine.
Persons are of the belief that inmates should work on the farms to contribute to their daily meals. A commenter at the Richmond Adult Correctional Facility made the remark that it “would lessen the burden on the taxpayers and funds could be shifted to assist with more rehabilitation programmes”.
Sources, however, have revealed that both farm prisons have multiple acres of land that are underutilized and have been neglected by the government, which has resulted in the facilities purchasing ground produce that could have been cultivated by the prison population.
More so, another area of concern by a correctional officer is the dietary needs of inmates, as it was detailed that prisoners are often fed rice and dumplings every day with occasionally having cornmeal porridge and crackers. It was further added that recently salt fish was introduced along with the limited variety of meat. The correctional officer also disclosed that inmates with health conditions such as diabetes and/or hypertension are not being fed properly when recommendations are made.
The big question that is being raised as it relates to the massive budget allocated by the government to the prison system is “what is half a billion dollars being spent on annually?” a correctional officer commented.
Zavia Mayne, State Minister of National Security and Lieutenant Colonel Gary Rowe, the retired Commissioner of Corrections have reportedly refused to respond to questions regarding the feeding programme at the prisons by reporters at the Sunday Observer.