On Tuesday, the Senate approved a number of changes to the Prison (Extramural Sentences) (Amendment) Act which gives adjudicators power to impose non-remedial labour over incarceration.
The amendments, which legislators say would give some offenders a second chance and ease the overcrowding in the jail, now need the assent of the governor general before they are considered law.
One of the pending changes is the addition of a definition of the type of offence and the general circumstances which would warrant the consideration for a community service sentence.
Firstly, the Bill defines “serious offence” as an indictable offence under any Act of Parliament for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment for five years or more or any other offence that is prescribed by regulation.
The Bill says the Minister, in this case the attorney general, “may make Regulations for the better carrying out of the provisions of the Act.”
If further indicates that any person under 25 years old, who is convicted and sentenced to less than 12 months in jail and who is convicted of an offence not considered to be serious, “may, on recommendation of the court and subject to the consent of the person, opt to be employed on public work outside the prison.”
The same applies to persons who are liable to be committed to prison for non-payment of a fine or sum of money ordered to be paid in respect of maintenance, affiliation or civil proceedings.
The community service work would be done under the supervision and control of a public authority such as Public Works Department or any statutory body or a municipal or local government authority vested with municipal or administrative jurisdiction in Antigua & Barbuda.
During the debate in the Senate Tuesday night, Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) Senator Lennox Weston said the changes would provide young offenders a second chance to learn from their mistake(s).