Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Chaplain wants more help for inmates from private sector

Published:Wednesday | February 8, 2017 | 2:00 AMChristopher Serju
Staff officer Gary Campbell goes though his checklist with inmates at the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town, St Catherine, at the graduation of the second cohort of participants in the Lifeskill 101 rehabilitation project. Also interacting with the inmates is Reverend Ellen Thomas (second right), programme coordinator. From left at the table are Jeffery McKenzie, custos of St Catherine, and Ina Hunter, commissioner of corrections.

"The nation's offenders who are incarcerated today will tomorrow be our neighbours and community members. It is therefore imperative that these offenders be given the opportunity to repurpose their lives and be meaningfully engaged during incarceration, so that they can return to society to lead a more productive life."

With these words, the Reverend Ellen Thomas, one of the chaplains actively engaged in the rehabilitation programme at Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre in St Catherine, sought to underscore the importance of greater private-sector support for the range of activities now being implemented at the institution.

She was addressing the recent official launch of the PEACE Approach Initiative and graduation ceremony of the second cohort of inmates from the Lifeskill 101 programme. The PEACE - Productive, Environment Attitude, Change and Empowerment - seeks to help inmates to realise the importance of using their time in prison to take full advantage of the academic and skills-training opportunities on offer.

'I am already here, let's make use of the experience' is the tagline for the initiative, which is grounded in the spiritual nurturing of the participants, who will have the option to be trained in tailoring, welding, woodwork, food preparation, farming and aquaculture. Following an assessment of their educational status, inmates who register for the programme will be schooled accordingly at the basic, intermediary and proficiency levels.

... It's the sensible thing to do - Charles Jr

Pearnel Charles Jr, state minister in the Ministry of National Security, noted that while the aim is simple, the task is very complex.

He explained: "The objective of ensuring purposeful rehabilitation for successful re-integration is a simple, clear task, but it takes a lot of dynamic approaches. We have to make Jamaica know that we are not dealing with individuals who are lost. We are dealing with Jamaicans, with citizens that are for the most part eager to turn themselves around, to identify what went wrong and once given the support, they will do what is necessary to help themselves become positive contributors to their communities.

"All of those activities are essential, not just because it is learning a skill or engaging in an activity, but because they all lead to you as the individual knowing, not feeling, that you are valued. That is why you are being taught, that is why you are being supported. So it is a critical thing for the persons involved - inmates, officers and, more important, the public, to know that initiatives of this nature is not just because we have to do it, is not just because you should do it; it is just the sensible, smart way of creating the society that we need to have in Jamaica."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com