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CAWJ report on incarcerated women

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CAWJ report on incarcerated women
CAWJ report on incarcerated women
By Paula Blake-Powell
Posted: 2024-03-05T21:27:34Z

An overview of activities undertaken by the Caribbean Association of Women Judges (CAWJ) relating to the 2024 International Day of Women Judges (IDWJ) theme "empathy & action: women and girls in carceral settings".

Read the full report here.

The issue of women in prison has been a significant concern for the Caribbean Association of Women Judges (CAWJ). In this report, the association provides updates on the situation of women and girls in carceral settings in various Caribbean member countries, including The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Most of these countries have legislation that expressly provides for babies born to mothers in custody to remain with them during the normal period of lactation and longer, sometimes up to 12 months. The babies are also entitled to receive clothing and necessities at the public's expense. However, there are no similar provisions in the Prison Rules of Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands, allowing incarcerated mothers to keep their babies.

Nevertheless, Trinidad and Tobago's law prohibits passing a death sentence on an expectant mother (section 62 of the Criminal Procedure Act Chap 12:02), similar to the provisions in Jamaica's Offences Against the Person Act (section 3 (1E) (2) & (3)).

Therefore, the involvement of Women Judges Associations with female prisoners has sparked a healthy debate within the CAWJ membership. Some members prefer to refrain from engaging with women in carceral settings, citing potential conflicts of interest, particularly in small, high-crime-rate territories. In cases where they are the Judge or Judicial Officer who imposed a custodial sentence on the female prisoner, they prefer to maintain an arm's length distance in the best interests of themselves as members of the criminal bench. This is to ensure the perception of a fair, impartial, and unbiased justice system, taking into consideration the feelings of the victims of the crime.

On the other hand, proponents of the "Empathy and Action" approach cite faith-based beliefs that impose a spiritual duty to assist the less fortunate by caring for widows, orphans, and visiting those who are imprisoned. They also invoke basic human rights principles as justification for their stance. Regardless of how the female prisoner ended up behind bars, these members posit that humanitarian considerations dictate that Judges and Judicial Officers may contribute to providing feminine and hygiene supplies to female prisoners entirely without prejudice, either directly or indirectly through another conduit.

The full report on these discussions and initiatives by CAWJ can be found here.