Remand prisoners aggravate the problem of overcrowding
May 11, 2002
Letters on prisons
My understanding of the status of the prisons is that there is enormous overcrowding. Are the Magistrates compelled to remand accused persons to prison even though reasonable requests for bail (with appropriate surety) have been made? Why do the police prosecutors readily oppose requests for bail? Two recent cases spring to mind:
Case # 1: where the accused was charged with arms possession on the stopping, searching and finding of a weapon under the seat of a vehicle the accused was driving.
Case #2: where the accused was making arrangements for restitution of pilfered sums from the employer.
Now in case #1, why could bail not have been granted, the moreso as the accused was gainfully employed? The denial of bail would seem punitive as firstly the case has not been proven on the facts presented, secondly the livelihood of the accused is jeopardized as well as that of the immediate family, and thirdly the accused is being unduly punished by being placed in quarters noted for its inhospitality and cruelty.
Next in case #2, the same question arises: why is it unreasonable to grant bail? The accused and the affected employer were working on arrangements for restitution. What is wrong with that? The case remains alive in the courts and if arrangements satisfactory to the courts are made for restitution, then the courts include them in its decisions together with other conditions as it deems appropriate.
When the accused is remanded to prison, it is generally for quite a while, (sometimes for one month to three months while nothing is done on their cases). Police prosecutors should be more willing to agree and to allow the Magistrate to feel free to set the quantum and such other conditions, for example, frequent reporting to the nearest police station, until the case is finally called up and resolved.
There seems to be great zeal in confining accused persons to prison and that in itself further clogs up the judicial system, with all the paper-work and 'lost and found files'.
The problem of remand prisoners swelling the prison population is now well recognised. The magistrates have been urged to consider this when deciding on bail applications.
As we have pointed out several times, the biggest problem is the number of persons held for possession of marijuana. The law only permits bail where the amount is minuscule. This should be changed.