Kellan Lewis *File photo
Kellan Lewis *File photo

A convicted killer three years into a 12-year sentence was denied parole this week.

The fact that Kellan Lewis even had a hearing so soon has raised fresh concerns about the perceived leniency of the justice system. 

Calls have been made once again for parole eligibility to be changed so that inmates serve at least half of their jail sentences instead of one third. Parole Board Chairman Ashfield DeVent is among those calling for legislative change and Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley yesterday outlined moves to tighten up the system, especially on serious offences. 

On Monday, Kellan Lewis applied to be released on parole, but was denied. Lewis had been convicted in 2010 for the killing of 18-year-old Kellon Hill.

Lewis was originally tried with four others in 2009. Zharrin Simmons, Kevin Warner, Gary Hollis and Devon Hairston were acquitted after no case to answer submissions. Lewis was released after a hung jury.

He was tried a few months later in March 2010 and acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter.

This newspaper understands Lewis is at the Prison Farm and is participating in work release programmes to prepare him for his release.

A source close to the prison system questioned why Lewis is eligible for parole, considering he is serving a sentence for killing someone.

“I don’t think that’s right and I think it goes contrary to the intent of the court judge," the source said.

Prison Commissioner Colonel Edward Lamb wouldn’t comment specifically on Lewis’s case but said: “The selection of inmates to be transferred to the Prison Farm is based on a number of criteria, including but not limited to:

• Compliance with regimes;

• Length of time until parole; eligibility date or release date;

• Completion of programmes;

• Conduct of the inmate over a period of time;

• Assessments completed by programmes staff.

 “We also take into consideration whether or not they have adjudications during their time in our custody.”

He continued: “This process is a very rigorous one.  It is part of the re-integration process and enables inmates to develop their external support system such as employment, housing etc, before they are released. 

“This in turn, aids in reducing their risks of re-offending.”

Col Lambe said inmates on work release or day release programmes are assessed and deemed to be “low risk” to the community.

“If the opposite prevailed, he would not be considered for work release or community service. 

“In that regard, [inmate] Lewis is deemed, and has consistently proven himself to be, a low risk to the community.”

We asked Col Lamb if the availability of cells at Westgate is a factor in the transfer of inmates to the Prison Farm. He told us that Westgate is not overcrowded; occupancy is currently at 75 per cent while the Prison Farm is at 65 per cent.

Asked if Lewis could be released if/when he applies again, Col Lamb said: “As for the granting of parole or the refusal thereof, that is a matter within the remit of the Parole Board, which is guided by pertinent laws and regulations. 

“Should an inmate be refused parole, the Parole Board makes a determination as to when it will review the particular case again, all based on the merits of each case. 

“The time between such hearings can range anywhere from one month to one year.”

Parole Board Chairman Ashfield DeVent called for changes to the current policy for parole eligibility.

As it stands, an inmate can apply for parole after serving one third of his/her sentence.

Mr DeVent, while declining to comment on individual cases, said: “The Parole Board itself has been calling for that change for some time and I think it’s important inmates serve at least half of their term before they are considered for parole.

“It appears that the present Minister is looking hard at making that change.”

Kellon Hill was at a birthday party with friends at Elbow Beach days before he was due to fly to Alabama to attend Oakwood University when Lewis stabbed him on August 9, 2008. He had graduated from Bermuda Institute earlier that summer.