Residents and citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis are already living under the stress of lockdown. Their mental health and peace of mind are pushed to the edge of economic and social agony associated with covid-19.
To add pain to this peril, PM Timothy Harris’ early release of prisoners in the community is premature. He is doing this without regard for the headaches and emotional torment his actions are having on the good people of the Federation.
Transparency, honesty and a clearly laid out policy would go a long way in reducing confusion, anxiety and fear.
While overcrowding, poor health facilities and unsanitary conditions make it hard to practice social distancing in the prison, it is inexcusable to release prisoners without knowing what criteria they must meet in order to be qualified to go home.
Are prisoners going to be confined at home after serving at least 50% percent of their sentences?
Will prisoners who become infected by the coronavirus be automatically eligible for early release?
Has something caused a new state of emergency at the prison?
Do prison officials anticipate a worse outbreak of Covid-19 in the facility than in the country at large?
What percentage of prisoners is at increased risk of being infected?
How many prison staff and prisoners if any, have tested positive for covid-19?
Many questions are being raised and negative comments made in the social media about the real motive behind this action of the Harris’s regime.
“I am baffled at the foolishness of this government and find it ridiculous how in St. Kitts now we are locking up people for breaking curfew but releasing rapists and thieves,” one young man wrote on social media.
Others are asking: “Is this part of the deal that Government made with the criminals in Government’s Pay for Peace Initiative”?
The idea that the regime will create confusion in advance of the elections, to justify draconian measures under the state of emergency is not far fetched. Just last Friday, under the cover of protecting the public health, Harris went to the Parliament to extend the Emergency Laws for an additional six months beyond the constitutional life of the Parliament, which automatically dissolves on May 14th, 2020, with election due by August 12th, 2020.
Rising public frustration and anger deposited on Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter reveal that the regime is so desperate because of their recent polling numbers, that they would endanger the public to recruit additional voters.
However, in the absence of strict monitoring programs where criminals are subjected to critical risk assessment, community watchdog arrangements and the wearing of electronic tags, upscaling release is more a cold-hearted political ploy than a serious attempt to avert the virus.
With heightened distrust of the government by voters in the Federation, implementing the early release program could, during the middle of this pandemic, increase stress, worry and fear in the wider population in ways that sincerely make the population more prone to catching the virus and thus, damage the goal of preserving the public health.
There should be a comprehensive plan to lessen the public anxiety over Harris’s sinister political agenda to release prisoners early. This plan should entail detecting, isolating and tracking cases in prison and in the wider population. The government should be busy developing innovative cell-based wellness and health activities and rehabilitation programs to prepare prisoners to re-enter society and become productive citizens again.
Clearly, this chaotic, risky, depression prone early release plan by Harris, deserves the strongest form of harsh condemnation.