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Inmates now able to communicate with family members through Skype

Published:Monday | December 26, 2016 | 12:00 AMJason Cross

Inmates being held at the Tower Street Correctional Centre have been afforded the opportunity of speaking with family members anywhere in the world through a new Skype programme.

The Department of Correctional Services launched the programme on December 9, at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, which allows inmates to video chat with relatives.

This is yet another element in the renewed push of the Ministry of National Security towards purposeful rehabilitation.

“I believe it is a good programme and if it is a case where more computers can be set up, then it is better than even the phone,” one inmate stated.

Another inmate said he welcomed the initiative and stated that most times he can hardly hear anything from the phone booths.

“Mi like this wah dem a do. This betta dan the visit because sometime we can hardly hear in the booth and it get too emotional,” the inmate said.

Relatives of inmates also welcomed the initiative.

Gloria*, who resides in the United States was elated that she was able to see her husband for the first time in five years.

The Skype initiative should be rolled out in all correctional facilities by the end of 2017.

Each month, inmates or wards of the state will be allowed five to 10 minutes to speak with family members, who will be given specific times at which they should call.

The authorities will decide on the time specifics. Correctional officers will be present in the room for the duration of the call.

Pearnel Charles Jr, state minister in the Ministry of National Security, with direct responsibility for the Department of Correctional Services, said the initiative serves to promote successful reintegration of inmates.

"Our goal is to rehabilitate and reintegrate positive contributors in our communities. Allowing inmates to communicate with their family through Skype technology will promote rehabilitation and ensure that inmates are motivated to transform their lives in a positive,” Charles Jr said.

“Inmates who maintain contact with their families and positive influencers, are less likely to reoffend and are more likely to be accepted in their communities.”

Project Manager at the Ministry of national Security, Dr Mark Thomas said discussions with inmates revealed that many of them don’t get to see relatives due to the expense.

“The discussions I had with inmates revealed that many never see their children or spouses due to the cost associated with visiting from overseas or from rural parishes to Kingston or Spanish Town where the largest correctional facilities are located," said Thomas.