Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Make prisons modern, humane

Published:Monday | April 18, 2016 | 4:00 AM

What happens to those folk who have completed their prison sentence and have to return to the society? How will they be integrated? Who helps them? How do their experiences in prison impact how they are on the outside?

Early last week, a man passed and called out to get my attention. He was dressed quite raggedly, unshaved, unkempt, and was smelly. I listened to his story.

He was a former gang member who had just been released from prison for stabbing and killing someone. Besides the smelly clothes he was wearing, all the guy had was a plastic bag with one pair of underpants and a shirt. He had been rebuffed from getting a job because he's still being judged by his past albeit his seven years of imprisonment. Right there, that's the problem!

It could be construed that the end result of our justice system does not do enough for those who have contravened. Is it a mindset that once convicted, a person should be considered as such even after doing time? Should they still be stigmatised?

Why are we not allowing ex-convicts to work at our business places? What option do they have if they cannot earn legitimately? Why are even churchgoing folk not receptive of ex-criminals being in their space? How acceptable is this?

Our justice system is failing and needs to greatly improve. It seems that many of the practitioners in the justice industry are more focused on retribution than rehabilitating convicts, especially rehabilitating their minds. The aesthetic state of our prisons is atrocious! 'Rat-infested', 'dilapidated' and 'disgustingly smelly' are words consistently heard when describing these prisons. Then we hear stories of the awful food and other living conditions prisoners have to endure.

Why are our prisons like this? Is this right?

"Prison a nuh bed a rose,' the song says. But on the contrary, for greater possibility of rehabilitation, our prisons should be in superb condition. What are we doing when we feed convicts improperly and have them sustained in these poor living conditions? Not to mention the abuse convicts experience from prison guards!

 

ATROCITIES

 

These things shouldn't happen! Prisoners should not have to experience such atrocities! What kind of persons are we expecting to have coming back into the society? What kind of persons are we breeding when these folk have done their time and they return to the society after these inhumane experiences?!

These ex-convicts will return to the society and they are the ones who will be having sex with their presumably diseased self with others on the outside (with potential for such illnesses to spread), as well as infecting persons with their diseased minds.

Do we realise the vicious cycle we perpetuate if we don't rehabilitate minds and remedy these living conditions in our prisons? Why on earth are we so cruel and accepting of these conditions in our prisons? Do we have to become residents before we start to, individually, care?

What kind of monitoring and social system is in place for ex-convicts to ensure they integrate well into the society? A man, having spent seven years in prison, what does he come out to? How does he earn? How does he eat? Where does he live? Who follows up with him to ensure he doesn't return to a former evil life? Does justice stop at imprisonment ? What about monitoring after release?

It is not okay for these despicable conditions to exist and continue. The fact is that many who believe our prisons should be harsh may very well do so out of ignorance, poor vision, or just an evil mind!

Our Constitution clearly dictates that persons incarcerated have a right to humane conditions. The justice system and the Government have a responsibility to ensure this does happen. What occurs and is evidenced in our prisons put the Government in contravention of the human rights of those incarcerated.

I really cannot understand how more persons don't take the Government to court on this pertinent matter of inhumane conditions! Further, what is our justice system doing about educating the society on embracing ex-convicts rather than stigmatising them?! Shouldn't the justice ministry do more for ex-convicts to ensure greater integration?

Doesn't this lack of vision and effort to have greater integration lend to a consistency of recidivism? Also, couldn't the inhumane conditions help to create even more hardened criminals? What can we do about these ex-convicts?!

• Garfield Goulbourne is author of 'Real Issues', a book on social commentary. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garfieldgoulbourne@Ayahoo.com.