David Cameron has announced that the UK will contribute £25m towards the completion of a 'super'-prison in Jamaica, accounting for around 40% of the total budget. It is hoped that by building the 1,500 occupancy prison the ongoing friction relating to Jamaican prisoners serving their sentences in UK prisons will be eased. Currently around 600 Jamaican nationals are serving sentences in UK jails, many for offences relating to drugs and violence. However, due to the poor conditions in Jamaican jails, the UK has been unable to deport the offenders through fear of committing human rights abuses itself. Therefore investment in the prison will allow the UK to ease this stalemate as once it is complete, deportation of Jamaican inmates from UK prisons can begin.
However, whilst appearing a simple solution, it creates a chain reaction of inconsistencies and impracticalities:
Whose rule of law?
Firstly, it is unclear if the Jamaican offenders will serve part, or all, of their sentence in the Jamaican facility. If it is their entire sentence, then it has not yet been detailed as who will have responsibility for offender's trials and sentencing. The boundaries between nation-states and their rule of law will become blurred. Particularly when sentencing for particular crimes are very distinct. This will in turn affect victims whom may feel they should be tried in accordance with the laws of the country the crime was committed, which may help empower them during the trial. If the UK is to arrest, try and sentence the individual then how will that translate once those offenders are on Jamaican soil, or in the event of a parole review? How will their UK based solicitors offer assistance with their cases, particularly if they are unable to see or speak to the individual? Will their case transfer to a Jamaican firm who are unfamiliar with the case or the rule of law for the country the crime was committed in? Will the deportation apply to all Jamaican citizens who commit crime, or are sentenced, in the UK? Will their be distinctions made on visiting, visa, asylum or residential status? Once released from prison will the offender ever be able to return to the UK?
As the UK will invest 40% of the budget, and if they are to try and sentence the individuals, do they have any say in their treatment following deportation? If not, this leads to the next issue.
The ethical loophole
If the UK is unable to intervene in the treatment of the Jamaican individuals following deportation it has only committed to avoiding human rights violations temporarily. If the UK has no say in the management, daily operations, conditions, treatment from guards/other inmates, rehabilitation or resettlement whilst the men are incarcerated then their commitment to protect them is false. For not only have they knowingly sentenced them to such conditions, as was the original issue, but they have now paid directly into the pockets of those whom will enforce those conditions. Will the UK's 40% investment include contractual conditions which the Jamaican government will have to enforce?
If so, consequentially, will the UK have deported its rule of law abroad? A rule which will only relate to 600 men out of the 1,500 in the same facility. Will there be special wings, guards and conditions for those men?
Whilst this all seems impractical in a day-to-day sense, it also begs the question philosophically regarding borders and the inherent individuality of national-state operations. If this project were to become commonplace in the UK whereby all foreign nationals were deported, and were kept distinct in their treatment and conditions to avoid such human rights abuses (as was trying to be avoided here), would we see small individual UK prisons set up across the globe? It would be extremely difficult to imagine a situation whereby those human rights abuses could be avoided by doing anything else.
Repaying society 1: Who to pay?
It also begs the question of which society the offender has a debt to repay. If the victim is displaced across the globe from their offender it will render opportunities for restorative justice almost impossible, therefore denying the victim an opportunity for closure and the ability to voice their opinion surrounding their punishment. It will also make it impossible for community sentences to be carried out during the latter stages of a sentence. For drug offences, for instance, there are heavy consequences on the surrounding areas which those drug offences take place. Offenders will not have a chance to rebuild, or indeed engage with at all, those areas and people they affected.
Repaying society 2: Prisoners as economic assets
The project is part of David Cameron's announcement to utilise £300m of aid-funding across the Caribbean in a regional infrastructure fund for development in roads, ports and bridges in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank. Fiscal policy, which includes such investment and infrastructure programmes, is here being used to include the development of a prison. This could be seen as an example of the prison-industrial complex where prison cells are filled in exchange for economic growth. Prisons are known to contribute widely to their communities with jobs to not only build the prison, but to manage and work within it on a daily basis for decades to come. By deporting up to the 600 inmates currently serving in jails in the UK, in a 1,500 capacity prison, the UK would be contributing 40% of the men to fill the cells. If there were a staff-to-prisoner ratio of a) 1:2.9 (1 guard to 2.9 prisoners - as was the level in the UK in 2000) or b)1:4.8 (UK level in 2013) then that's an additional a) 207 guards or b) 125 guards. Which for one of the slowest growing developing countries in the world with an annual GDP increase of just 1%, and with an unemployment rate of 13.2% (2015) as opposed to the UK's 5.6% (2015), it is not difficult to see that this would make a difference. Particularly when that is only accounting for the added prisoners arriving from the UK.
The (im)migrant debate
It is also difficult to view such a decision by David Cameron to be outside of the current debate surrounding (im)migrants and the stance each party is taking on such matters. The deportation of foreign national offenders appears 'tough on outsiders', and after the recent pressure on the Conservative governments to increase the number of migrants accepted into the UK following the humanitarian crisis in Syria and elsewhere, it would appears to voters to balance out the party's defeat.
From an academic point of view it would also make the ability to collect, manage and file prison statistics appropriately very difficult if the other governments do not collect their data as throughly. It would also allow the possibility for the government to change the definition of what it means to belong to the UK's prison population, leaving many individuals not included, giving falsely low figures which may be attribute to policies which are actually ineffective.