Attorneys need to fight for better prison conditions – Senior lawyer

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Senior Counsel, Anthony Astaphan has contended that attorneys have failed to put forward solid arguments to the courts to ensure that their clients are not being housed in the cruel and inhumane conditions at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP).
“It would have to be a constitutional submission made in evidence to the High Court on sentencing that sentencing this man to imprisonment or his continued detention at the prison constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. I believe that the court, as it has done in other constitutional contexts, would say  to the government that they have to do something about this as soon as possible,” Astaphan said.
The issue of overcrowding at the prison are well documented in numerous international human rights reports that list the living conditions as poor and unfit for humans.
The discussion was thrust into the fore again after the authorities in the United Kingdom refused to grant an extradition request for a police officer accused of raping a young woman on Antiguan soil, because the conditions at the lone jail here are degrading and a breach of one’s human rights.
The extradition was granted after a second request was made and the government agreed to provide
alternative detention arrangements for the 25-year-old accused at the old Naval Base in Coolidge that includes air-conditioning, gym, and clean environs.
This has angered some in the country, particularly the 300 plus prisoners serving sentence and awaiting committal/trial at the Coronation Road prison that was initially built for a maximum of 150 inmates. They have since written a letter to the government outlining their complaints.
Astaphan told OBSERVER media yesterday that if the conditions were so bad for the U.K. man accused of rape, then the attorneys representing those at HMP needed to make a better case for their clients here.
“It is the role of the lawyer to raise it and to make the point as the English man’s lawyer did in the United Kingdom. All that I am saying is that this thing has been going on for a long time, there have been reports of the condition of the prison, I don’t know what the current conditions are, but, surely the Bar Association and lawyers need to decide if they are going to take that point on behalf of their clients,” Astaphan said.
The government has been strongly criticised by some residents who question the treatment being given to the British national when others are languishing at the Coronation Road prison.
Astaphan however said the authorities here should be commended for pursuing justice.
“I don’t think this is a question of accommodating anybody, this is a question of the High Court of the United Kingdom indicating that it would not extradite someone to Antigua and Barbuda to be prosecuted for a very serious crime until alternative arrangements were made for him because in the court’s view the conditions did not meet the standards to what that court is accustomed to,” he said.

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