Lost in the Prison System – Again!  

The story of Delroy McIntosh, imprisoned for nearly 25 years after being adjudged unfit to plead, is a national disgrace. The fact that Mr. McIntosh was originally imprisoned for possession of ganja is one of the irrelevancies that is often strewn across such discussions.

As was the case with Mario Deane, who died in police custody after being arrested for ganja possession, the issue here is not whether people should be locked up for possession of ganja. We should not therefore, be deluded into believing that the recent amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act will cure the problem.

I say this because the critical issue here is that a vulnerable man, with no one to advocate for him and remind the world that he existed,  was lost in Jamaica’s prison system, and as a result lost 25 years of his life. The fact that he was locked up for possession of ganja is irrelevant because it could have been any other minor offence, and the result would have been the same.

In fact, we saw the same result in 2001, when Alfred “Ivan Barrows” Nettleford was released from prison after 28 years, having been jailed in 1972 for breaking a window.

The real issues here are the treatment of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system, the lack of proper treatment for them, and the lack of accountability and tracking of people in the system. These deficiencies resulted in the violation of Mr. McIntosh’s and Mr. Nettleford’s right to liberty. The sad truth is we have no idea whether there are any others in the same position.

As with “Ivan Burrowes,” Mr. McIntosh has been released thanks to the efforts of human rights activist, Nancy Anderson. On this occasion, students at the Norman Manley Law School worked along with her. She says she will be continuing this important work.

In the meantime, Justice Minister Mark Golding has promised improvements that will prevent a recurrence. That is an important first step. But we need more. We must see a thorough overhaul and streamlining of the way in which we deal with the mentally ill, other vulnerable groups, and indeed, all prisoners, to ensure that nothing like this happens again. And we must hold the Justice Minister to his word.

 

 

Nigeria girls who fled Boko Haram look to brighter future

djmillerja:

Interesting update on the Chibok girls who did escape from Boko Haram –

Originally posted on Lawyers Alert:

Picture taken on May 5, 2014 shows Chibok school girls who escaped from the Boko Haram Islamists gathering to receive information from officials
.

 

Lagos (AFP) – A typical day for Deborah includes classes on a manicured university campus and exercise in the evening — basketball, volleyball or aerobics. On weekends, she studies, swims or just relaxes.

 

But the teenager’s life now is one that was unimaginable 12 months ago.

On April 14 last year, she was in a packed dormitory at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, seeking a night’s sleep before writing end-of-term exams.

Boko Haram fighters stormed the school after sundown, kidnapping 276 girls.

The mass abduction provoked global outrage and brought unprecedented attention to an insurgency that has devastated northern Nigeria since 2009.

Deborah was one of 57 girls who escaped within hours of the attack. Her life has changed but for the other 219 hostages still being held and for families desperate for news, the nightmare continues.

Despite promises…

View original 652 more words

Ganja Reform, Rights and Rasta

In 1997, Dr. Dennis Forsythe, described in Forsythe v Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney General (1997 34 J.L.R. 512) as a sociologist, holist, author, Rastafarian and attorney-at-law, petitioned the Supreme (High) Court for a declaration that his constitutional rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion had been infringed by the Dangerous Drugs Act 1924. Forsythe had been arrested for illegal possession of marijuana (called ganja in Jamaica) and a chillum pipe (used to smoke marijuana) at his house. 

This is my post at Oxford Human Rights Hub. Do read the rest here.

Does Arthur Williams Have Clean Hands? – Williams v Holness Part 2

Image by David Castillo Dominici at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image by David Castillo Dominici at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

There was a collective national gasp in 2013, when, after having been ousted from the Senate by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, by way of delivery to the Governor General of a pre-signed letter of resignation and a pre-signed letter of authorization to date and send the resignation letter, Arthur Williams revealed that he had crafted those very letters.

There was doubt in some quarters that Williams would even be entertained in the Supreme Court, given his significant contribution to creating the very devices that were used to remove him from the Senate.

When the Supreme Court ruled that the letters were inconsistent with the constitution, contrary to public policy, null and void, the questions were raised again.

How could Arthur Williams benefit from a ruling made necessary by a situation that he himself had brought about? Shouldn’t he have been barred from accessing the court, or at the very least not have benefitted from its ruling? Read more in my post on www.rjrnewsonline.com. 

You’re Fired! (or Not) – Williams v Holness Part 1

Image by master isolated images www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image by master isolated images http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

According to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Arthur Williams v Andrew Holness, political leaders have no power to revoke the appointment of Senators. The question we are left with is whether they should have that power.

The case has left Jamaicans asking about its immediate impact on the composition of the Senate, with lawyers for Mr. Williams maintaining that he and Mr. Tufton are still Senators while lawyers for Mr. Holness disagree. Read more in my post at www.rjrnewsonline.com.

Featured Image -- 3197

What Miss Jamaica Missed

djmillerja:

great writing as always……

Originally posted on Under the Saltire Flag:

KaciFen2

And so it happened, the extraordinarily beautiful and humble Kaci Fennell, Jamaica’s contestant in Donald Trump’s intergalactic pageant, was not, in the end, crowned Miss Universe. She came fifth. The crowd in Miami booed. To tell the truth, they went ape-shit! ‘Ms Jamaica’ trended across America’s twittosphere for hours – and at #1 at that – oh the irony! At home, Jamaicans cried ‘racism’; they cried ‘block de road!’; they cried, ‘give me one of those Bain placards we not using anymore, cross out de name ‘Bain’, and put ‘Kaci’ instead! We want Justice!’  It was high drama. Even the other contestants flocked around the Caribbean beauty, commiserating her 5th place, instead of flocking around the unpopular winner, Ms Colombia, to offer due congratulations.

KaciFen1

My own misgivings about beauty pageants have been made public before. They remain the same. Pageants help to establish very dangerous standards of beauty for…

View original 1,481 more words

The Free Speech Debate & Charlie Hebdo

I’m blogging today at http://www.rjrnewsonline.com. Check out my latest post!

Photo by David Monniaux on Wikipedia

2006 protest march in Paris against Charlie Hebdo Photo by David Monniaux on Wikipedia

 

One of the cartoons published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo portrayed France’s black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira as a monkey. Would you regard that as racist?

Was it their right to publish that and other cartoons denounced by some Muslims as blasphemous of the prophet Mohammed? Should freedom of expression protect offensive speech? To a great extent, I believe the answer is yes. And yet, the debate over freedom of expression is a difficult, complicated and nuanced one. Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should. And what if what appears to be an offensive statement is simply being misunderstood? Read more here.