Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Governor John Duncan is against the imprisonment of fathers who fail to pay child support, citing that it's common sense that when they are behind bars, they will not be able to pay maintenance.
The Governor was at the time commending Superintendent of Prisons, Mr. David Foot, for his dedication and initiatives on the release/rehabilitation programme at the prison.
"...If we put someone in prison because they are not paying child maintenance, it is common sense that child maintenance is not going to get paid. So thank you Mr. Foot for your efforts to try to redress that balance," Governor Duncan said.
He stated that every effort must be made in ensuring that inmates are reintegrated into the society to make a positive contribution.
"I would like to thank Superintendent Foot for his work during his tenure on restorative justice where prisoners are released back into the community; those who present no threat to the community, but need to be able to get back into the community and contribute. And it has been a very successful programme," Governor Duncan said.
Mr. Foot is on the record stating that sending those fathers to the Balsam Ghut penitentiary is placing more burden on tax payers.
During the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) deliberations last year, Hon. Archibald Christian, Junior Minister of Tourism said that he has a concern about the incarceration of fathers who do not pay their child support. This, he said, should be looked at in an effort to control the prison population and to reduce unnecessary expenditure.
He said that these fathers also have a challenge in trying to catch up with their payments when they are released from prison.
Hon. Christian had asked Mr. Foot for his views on the matter.
Mr. Foot said it costs about $24,000 per year to maintain an inmate in prison in the BVI. He said that he does not think it is in the tax payers' best interest for a father who did not pay child support to be sent to prison, while the money that they owe increases.
He said the other issue to be considered is that the persons who are sent to prison may lose their jobs and this makes the situation even worse.
Mr. Foot explained that options available are community service orders and weekend prison, where persons are allowed to work Monday to Friday and are required to stay in prison for the weekend.
The Superintendent stated that persons could also be given a certain amount of time to pay back the money owed.
Meanwhile, government has introduced a new Child Maintenance and Access Bill, which will see delinquent parents’ wages being garnished by the court.
The bill was tabled in the House of Assembly and a date for debate has to be set.
The proposed new law has been drafted to address the financial and other support services necessary to provide for the needs and upbringing of a child.
"The new law will allow the courts to order that funds for the maintenance of a child be taken from the earnings of a person, in accordance with the terms of the maintenance order," government had indicated.
According to government, "It would also make provisions for the court to deal with the issues of access to a child with an application for maintenance being heard, and vice versa."
The matter of child support has been an issue facing the society for many years. In 2015, the court collected $1.4M in child support.