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It is a disgrace to die an illiterate - Montague plans literacy programme for prisoners

Published:Saturday | June 18, 2016 | 12:01 AMJason Cross
Robert Montague

Inmates in the country's penal institutions will soon be tested for literacy as another step in Jamaica's crime fighting and rehabilitation efforts.

Minister of National Security Robert Montague, speaking at a Rotary Club meeting at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Thursday, said that illiteracy among inmates was too prevalent.

"The correctional service is an important player in our national fight against crime and is presently going through organisational transformation that should enhance its role in this regard. I have issued instructions that every inmate must be tested for literacy. It is a disgrace to die an illiterate. I now have an opportunity to help my brothers and sisters who are incarcerated," the minister said.

He said there were plans to implement a system inside prisons, similar to one utilised in Cuba, where adults are put on a programme to become literate in eight weeks.




"We are working through some programmes with the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning, and we have also engaged the government of Cuba to use their programme," said Montague.

"If you are going to stay with me for more than six months and you cannot read and write, when you leave our penal institutions, you must be able to read and write. Illiteracy, in my view, helps to breed some of the problems we have on the domestic front. It helps to hold back conflict resolution," he said.

"Wards in our care must be allowed to take at least five subjects each. We have the classrooms. We have the teachers. It costs us $660,000 (annually) to keep a ward in Jamaica. If I'm spending $660,000 on you, you better pass your exam. I do not believe that persons within our penal institutions should be sitting down, having three square meals per day, watch television, sit down and plan what they are going to do when they come out. They must work!"

Montague continued: "I am told that in New Brighton [prison] in Manchester [England], they are not only feeding themselves for one day per week, but they have produced enough eggs to offer to other institutions. I have insisted that eggs and calaloo are the preferred choices. We must put them to work to help pay for the stay."