‘Repositioning for excellence’
Message from Governor General Sir Patrick Allen to mark the Department of Correctional Services 40th anniversary
Since the establishment of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) 40 years ago, there have been some important changes in Jamaica's prison system. The conceptual function of the system prior to 1975 was that of punishment and there was stratification where the prisons, the probation services, and the approved schools operated as separate entities. This earlier operation resulted in a number of inefficiencies, inconsistencies and duplication within the system.
It is significant that your conceptual functions shifted to reflect a department concentrating on the empowerment of inmates/wards as you strive to meet the 21st century approach to the correctional process. Your focus on reforming the system has indeed created improvement in the opportunities for rehabilitation and care of inmates.
I commend your focus and initiatives to institute skills training and programmes to reduce recidivism. The implementation of the Jamaica Reducing Reoffending Action Plan, which commenced in 2011 to aid in reducing recidivism, must be applauded, especially since recidivism impacts the country's crime rate, strains the national budget and the prisons' physical capacity.
The educational opportunities provided for inmates in facilities across the country, some of whom were totally illiterate but were able to move up to functional literacy, sometimes to sitting subjects at the CXC level, is worthy of mention. And, your trade training programme in which male inmates are taught mechanics, woodwork, and agricultural science and the female inmates are taught cosmetology and home economics skills are necessary steps in reformatting these individuals to function as productive members of society.
In sharing your philosophy of never viewing anybody beyond redemption, through the Rotary Club of Kingston endorsed by The I Believe Initiative, we have sought to establish the Back to Life Mentorship Programme at the Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional Centre to ensure that when boys exit the system as juveniles they do not re-enter in their adult years.
Your juvenile and adult inmates open days, expositions, sports day and awards ceremony are all significant activities which will no doubt further enhance the social development of your charge as you commemorate your 40th anniversary celebration under the theme 'Repositioning for Excellence'.
As the department repositions, I urge you to continue developing and implementing programmes for professional staff development, as you strive to meet your goal of creating "that therapeutic environment" for clients who are being retooled to contribute to a "peaceful, caring and productive society."
I wish for you a very successful staging of your 40th anniversary activities.