Sun | May 26, 2019

DCS engages residents to help them steer clear of prison

Published:Wednesday | February 27, 2019 | 12:19 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Staffers at the Department of Correctional Services’ Probation Aftercare Service walking through Fletcher’s Land in Kingston yesterday, engaging residents during a community sensitisation and outreach tour yesterday.

By helping to steer persons clear of a life of crime, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is not only looking at the benefits to the justice system, but also the gains the country could enjoy by being able to redirect funds to tackle other pressing issues.

“You can see a win-win effect because when we stem crime and violence, you have less people going before the courts. Probation officers won’t be so overburdened with caseloads. You can imagine what happens if we limit cases going before the court. That limits the number of offenders who will become inmates,” said Dexter Thompson, director of communications and public relations at the DCS.

“It also comes back to tax dollars. That money can be used elsewhere instead of on situations of rehabilitation. A stitch in time saves nine, and that’s what we are doing here today.”

Thompson was speaking to The Gleaner yesterday as the DCS embarked on a tour of two inner-city communities in central Kingston to sensitise residents on some of its programmes. As part of the DCS’s special week of activities in Region One, the tour took saw staff engaging residents of Allman Town and Fletcher’s Land under the theme ‘Transforming Lives, Restoring Hope for a Better Jamaica’.

“A better Jamaica is what we are trying to accomplish,” Thompson told The Gleaner.

He pointed out that Jamaica has roughly 4,000 incarcerated persons. Added to that, there are another 8,000 or more persons serving non-custodial sentences and have been bound by the court to carry out community service.

“If you are eating a cake, you don’t try to put all of it in your mouth at once. You do it bit by bit until there is no cake on the plate. That is our approach,” he said. “We have to sensitise communities about the roles and functions of a probation aftercare service.

“Probation aftercare officers also do something called community corrections, like you are seeing today. They come into the community, meet with the people and look at their needs. There may be a need for vocational skills, so we show them where those things are available and we assist them. We assist them through our partners, like HEART Trust/NTA. We are empowering them and showing them an alternative to going down the path of crime and violence.”

Makisha Haye, who was excited about the week of activities, pointed out that a number of persons ordered to undertake community service are lining up to pay back society with their time.

“They will be doing a community service project at the Maxfield Park Children’s Home, doing landscaping and general beautification of grounds. We engage them in different activities, because we encourage restorative justice. The community in which you offend, you can say sorry by giving back. We also give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and skills,” she said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com