Vybz Kartel not necessarily breaking any laws by recording in prison, according to Minister for National Security.

Vybz Kartel
Vybz Kartel

Jamaica’s Minister for national security, Senator Pearnel Charles Jnr, says he is trying to get a clear understanding of the interpretation of the laws and regulations governing the production of music in maximum security prisons.

The studios that are in the prisons are not there for the correctional officers, they are there for the inmates. In fact, Jah Cure recorded some of his greatest songs behind those same prison walls while serving time on a rape conviction.

The issue the Minister for national security is having is deciding whether or not Vybz Kartel should be afforded the same opportunity as Jah Cure since Kartel is in the process of filing an appeal.

“There are a number of questions that were asked in relation to Vybz Kartel, such as whether an inmate involved in an appeal is able to be involved in the rehabilitation program; you hear a lot of things in the public domain as to whether an appellant could record at the studio that is there, or whether an appellant would be excluded from using the studio under a rehabilitation program,” Charles told 18 Karat Reggae.

Charles made it clear that he is not in agreement with the recent suggestion by Lisa Hanna of the banning of Vybz Kartel’s music.

“It’s a very simplistic view to say you’re convicted, and you’re making this impact, so we are going to sensor your music. Remember, sometimes you may be the creator of the music and may have sold the rights to your music. That is why we have to have a clear and cogent discussion on several issues: banning somebody’s music because they are convicted and banning music that arises from unauthorized recordings which wouldn’t be banning. That music is just illegal,” he said.

According to Charles, the aim of incarceration is to rehabilitate people and not to punish them.

“People come into the institutions as punishment, not for punishment. Even within the context of hard labor, there are conditions that we have to abide by. The goal must be, where possible, to rehabilitate these persons,” he said.

At the same time, he noted that the regulations to the Corrections Act will be reviewed because some infractions are not currently covered in the regulations.

“Let’s use Vybz Kartel for example, let us say hypothetically that he was recording without permission and he was to send out, by Whatsapp, music to a producer. You don’t have evidence to prove it but you believe that it is happening, what you do with the music?” he questioned.

“I have asked the legal department and the commissioner and her team to think about these things,” he stated.

Meanwhile, he emphasized that the measures the Government announced on Tuesday to combat corruption and ensure accountability in the correctional system were already in motion, and is not a knee-jerk reaction to Hanna’s statements. “I have held regular meetings, this didn’t start because of Lisa Hanna’s discussion, but of course it’s heightened and it’s an opportunity for me to present it to the country when it will listen,” he said.

The security ministry announced Tuesday that it intends to carry out a security assessment of the country’s correctional system in a move to strengthen internal controls in all prisons, and tackle corruption and other criminal activities within correctional facilities.

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