- Acting Public Defender, Matondo Mukulu, is calling for a review of the country’s Parole Act, noting that much has changed since the law was passed almost 40 years ago.
- Mr. Mukulu said the current law is, in some instances, unconstitutional and antiquated.
- Mr. Mukulu said as such, his office has been working with the Ministry of National Security to effect changes to the Act.
Acting Public Defender, Matondo Mukulu, is calling for a review of the country’s Parole Act, noting that much has changed since the law was passed almost 40 years ago.
Mr. Mukulu, who was addressing members of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF), during a breakfast meeting at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston, on Tuesday, September 16, said the current law is, in some instances, unconstitutional and antiquated.
“To be fair, I don’t think our legislators sat down and said ‘let us create a statute that is unconstitutional’. I think things have developed, but we haven’t managed to develop,” he said.
Mr. Mukulu said as such, his office has been working with the Ministry of National Security to effect changes to the Act.
He noted that among the areas of concern is the fact that under the law, an inmate who applies for parole is not required to be present at the hearing where his or her fate is being decided. It is up to the discretion of the Parole Board to determine whether or not the inmate is present.
“There is something anomalous and wrong in saying to me that ‘you are about to determine whether or not I have been rehabilitated and whether I can go back into society’, and I am not, as a matter of right, allowed to even be in the room where my fate is being determined,” Mr. Mukulu argued.
The acting Public Defender said the procedure cannot be deemed fair if the inmate or a representative is not present at his own parole hearing.
He pointed out that discussions with some 13 inmates from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Facility and the Tower Street Correctional Facility, over the last two months, have revealed that none of the inmates, who have applied for parole, were ever informed that the Board had the discretion to invite them to the hearing.
Mr. Mukulu is, therefore, calling for a review of this aspect of the law, noting that in most jurisdictions across the Commonwealth, an applicant is given the right to appear before the Parole Board.
“Even if one is not allowed to be present, the second option is that the inmate should have a representative there,” he said.
Additionally, Mr. Mukulu argued that the inmates or their representatives are not allowed to view the reports, which are often submitted to the Board by the Probation Officers.
“The applicant is not given that all important opportunity to consider and respond to that report. That again has been found in other jurisdictions to be against the basic right to a fair hearing,” he said.
“If I can’t challenge what you have said against me ‘how fair is that process?,” he questioned.
However, Mr. Mukulu concedes that his office recognises that there must be instances in which reports are withheld from inmates.
The acting Public Defender explained that an amendment of the law is necessary to protect the rights of citizens and to safeguard against “a litany of constitutional motions being brought before the Courts” by applicants who feel they have been wronged.
Mr. Mukulu further noted that his office has an obligation to contribute to law-making to ensure that laws which are passed achieve balance between protecting human rights and those of the public.