Tue | Dec 12, 2017

$75 m spent on lockups creates more defects

Published:Thursday | October 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
In this file photo, security officials, including former minister Dwight Nelson (second left) and former acting Commissioner of Corrections Lt Col David Cummings (right) are seen on a tour of the new Metcalfe Street Juvenile Remand Centre.

Taxpayers will have to fork over an additional $32 million to bring a number of juvenile detention facilities up to minimum acceptable standards before they can be commissioned into service, a revelation that left lawmakers stunned on Tuesday. This is because after being handed over to the Jamaica Constabulary Force since 2015 when they were retrofitted at a cost of $75 million, the facilities have been unoccupied.

Members of the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament were flabbergasted that after an initial $75-million spend at lock-ups in Barrett Town, St James; Nain, St Elizabeth; Bridgeport, St Elizabeth; and Moneague in St Ann, the facilities were nowhere nearer to be ready to be occupied. And when Mitsy Beaumont-Daley, acting chief technical director in the Ministry of National Security, announced that $17 million had been approved in the 2017-18 Budget to begin remedying the defects that occurred as result of the rehabilitation, Colin Fagan voiced his discontent.

"Why would we now be repairing facilities that we did not use?" the member of parliament for South East

St Catherine asked. "What would have happened to the monitoring of the buildings? Why are we just finding out that these things were not in place?"

This was the concern expressed by committee members after Beaumont-Daley announced the raft of defects common to all the lock-ups, as follows:

• There were signs of paint flaking from the walls

• The roofs leaked profusely, especially at Moneague

• The ventilation openings were too small

• The doors are covered by steel plates.

• Fire hose reels are inappro-priately placed in spaces allotted for children

• Top bunks of beds are without rails

• Sharp edges throughout the facilities

As it relates to the amenities,

• Each cell had the penal institution-type lavatory basin and water closet

• The combo toilet did not work in any of the stations visited

• Some smoke detectors were seen, but the numbers were inadequate

• Fire extinguishers were not regularly serviced

• Some mattresses were without covers and others were in poor condition

• All were equipped with CCTV cameras and recreational areas lacked lighting.

Committee members were further incensed by the acting chief technical director's pronouncement that the scope of work needed to make sections of the lock-ups 'juvenile-friendly' include removal of the sheet metal on all doors; construction of meeting rooms for privacy; repairing leaking roofs; repainting all walls; installing additional lighting, which would require covering, as well repairs to damaged solar panels.

The National Works Agency was the executing body for the project, which was originally funded from the Jamaica Emergency Employment Project, but none of their representatives was in attendance.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com