Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Give prisoners more family time - Gullotta

Published:Sunday | October 25, 2015 | 10:00 AM
Gullotta
Inmates in the tailor shop being assisted by a correctional officer during open day at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre last week.
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The amount of time that prisoners are allowed to spend with visiting family members is an area which Carla Gullotta, Italian consul to Jamaica and founder of Stand Up for Jamaica, wants addressed as part of the programme to better rehabilitate inmates.

According to Gullotta, the number of prison visits by family members has declined dramatically, and some families have stopped visiting altogether because of the limited time that they are allowed to spend with their loved ones.

"One of the problems that creates tension and stress in the institutions in general is the fact that the contact with family is really poor and very short. The regular visit is just a few minutes - maybe four or five minutes - behind a glass in a room where there are other people at the same time," said Gullotta, who has spent many hours in the prisons working with inmates.

She further argued that the family days, which the Correction Services allows, is not enough.

"The so-called family days happen about three times per year and is a day when inmates are allowed to see their children and for the children to see their parents. A family visit lasts about 12 minutes to a maximum 14 minutes," she said.

 

traumatised

 

Gullotta charged that the problem is compounded by the fact that "the families are coming from all over Jamaica, so they might be travelling from so far away - which takes a lot of time and also takes in a whole heap of spending - and then they reach the institution, and they have to wait until it is their visiting time.

"Sometimes it might be in the morning, sometimes it might be in the afternoon, so the families and children are sitting there in the parking lot or outside area and when finally, the visit time ... they have to go in this big room with several inmates, and the time is 12 minutes.

"This is a huge, huge problem. I think of the inmates, but I think more of the children. For a child whose parent is far away and in prison, it is not an easy thing to digest for the children. Once they finally see the parents, they are already frightened by the place ... once they enter they just have time to see the father or mother, exchange a few sentences, and at the beginning they cannot express themselves because they are emotionally traumatised.

"It's a lot of people around, and stuff, so when they finally reach the stage where they say, 'Mummy, how are you?', this is the time to go. So for the child it is not a good experience, and for the inmates, it is very frustrating," said Gullotta.

Stand Up for Jamaica is an organisation through which Gullotta, with the assistance of volunteers, offers classes and other services to prison inmates.