Editorial

Ignore prisoner rehabilitation at our own peril

Thursday, June 20, 2019

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Sensible nations understand the dangers of ignoring the need for meaningful prisoner rehabilitation, conscious that the majority of inmates will return to society to unleash whatever skills — good or bad — new experiences, and habits they have developed.

The 1970s was the golden era of prisoner rehabilitation for Jamaica. Since then, there have been efforts at reform but these, at best, have been sporadic, often lukewarm, and dependent on who was minister of national security or the commissioner of corrections.

It's for those reasons that we take encouragement from the leadership of junior minister in the Ministry of National Security Rudyard “Ruddy” Spencer who appears to have put prisoner rehabilitation on the front burner.

Yesterday, for example, Mr Spencer made sure to give his blessings and was set to participate in a recording session at Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in downtown Kingston, under the auspices of the Rehabilitation of Offenders through Music Programme.

The music programme will probably be best remembered for launching the reggae crooner Siccature Alcock, better known as 'Jah Cure'. Even while he was in prison for the regrettable crime of rape, his first international hit, Longing For, reached number 7 on the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) Urban Music Chart.

Yesterday, Mr Spencer was scheduled to hear 16 songs being recorded by inmates and which are to be completed for the first album being produced by Programme Director Gladstone Wright. The recording session highlighted the songs that are being done in time for the 'Emancipendence' celebrations.

Another of Mr Spencer's favourite is the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre's Agricultural Self-Sufficiency Programme which he boasted was on track, in an address at the two-day exposition held under the theme “Making the Best Better through Rehabilitation” which started on Monday at the prison's church hall.

The Department of Correctional Services has a structured and comprehensive agricultural programme in most of its facilities. The St Catherine centre formed its own 4-H club four years ago in partnership with the Jamaica 4-H clubs. Since then a total of 80 inmates have been trained in agro-processing and farming techniques.

According to Mr Spencer, since January 2019 they have produced over 2,410 pounds of vegetables in the garden. The vegetables and items have, over the years, been used to supplement the inmates' diets.

We in this space are pleased to note that between January and May this year, the institution has saved approximately $100,000 under the agricultural programme. The 4-H club donates the surplus to the other institutions.

Since its inception, the club has won several first places at the regional and national levels in agro-processing and farm garden competitions, including first and second placings at the Denbigh Agricultural Show in 2017 and 2018.

The exposition this week showcased products made from peanut, cashew, sweet potato, breadfruit, callaloo, and beetroot.

“I applaud the Jamaica 4-H clubs for recognising the need to equip our inmates with transferable life skills so that upon release, they will continue to lead productive lives and start lucrative businesses,” said Minister Spencer.

Good job, minister and team.


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