JFJ against proposal for minimum 30-year sentence for murder

Mickel Jackson
By Prince Moore
Human rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has taken issue with a proposal by Prime Minister Andrew Holness for a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years imprisonment for murder.
Speaking Tuesday in the House of Representative, Mr. Holness said Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has been directed to bring the proposed legislative changes to the House early next year.
But Executive Director of Jamaicans for Justice, Mickel Jackson, believes such a change would remove the discretion of judges to assess the unique circumstances of each case before the court. 
"For example, when you have murders or any other crime that is committed by a youngster who may have been forced or whatever the circumstance may be, you’re taking away that judicial discretion," she said. 
The JFJ's concern with the Prime Minister's suggestion mirrors its complaint against the new firearms legislation which dictates a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for illegal possession of firearm and ammunition. 
Ms Jackson warned that these types of laws could lead to overcrowding in prisons, which she said are aleady "fraught with a lot of challenges" including inhumane conditions. 
"If the prison system faces that many challenges with the dilapidated buildings, lack of rehabilitation and reform, when you put in mandatory minimums, what could you possibly be adding to?" she questioned. 
"I want to also add that Jamaica’s murder definition, if you will, the offence is either murder or capital murder. We do not have like in the United States that deals with second-degree murder where you can have a lesser sentence," Ms Jackson pointed out. 

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