Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
SPANISH TOWN, St Catherine:
THE TURNOUT was disappointing, but those who attended the Department of Correctional Services' (DCS) expo staged at the Spanish Town Prison's Oval in St Catherine last weekend were impressed.
"It's very good. I think it's a waste of talent. The Correctional Services can make money because they can even open a furniture place where they can sell their furniture," Marlene Lewis, a resident of Spanish Town, shared with The Gleaner as she viewed furniture made by inmates at the Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre in St Mary.
Opal Phillips, another Spanish Town resident, was fascinated by the array of culinary products, craft, clothing, and furniture.
"The exhibition is wonderful. The comforter, the craft work, and the furniture are well put together. I hope when the inmates come out, they will get jobs because their work is catchy," she remarked.
The expo was the culmination of Corrections Week, staged annually by the DCS to showcase the work of wards and inmates housed at and incarcerated in the island's approved institutions and correctional centres.
"Sometimes people believe we just have them, lock them up, and we don't do anything with them. They are not forgotten. They do a lot of stuff. They do CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council), they participate in the different skills areas," Marcia Wright, acting director of rehabilitation, DCS, explained to The Gleaner.
The week, October 28 to November 3, was observed under the theme 'DCS on a Mission - Securing the Vision through Rehabilitation'.
"We are rehabilitating the persons who we have in our care so that when they come back out, most of them, not all, will have either a career or a hobby that they can continue with," Wright noted.
She said the DSC had embarked on a drive to market and sell the items displayed at the expo.
"At first, we just made the items and put them up, but we thought that wasn't a good idea because we didn't want them to languish anywhere. Now, when people look at them, if they want to, they can make their order and the inmates would make them as ordered," she explained.
The inmates, housed in seven adult correctional centres and one adult remand centre, are given the option of participating in educational and skills-training programmes.
"It is something that they choose to do. If they are unable to read, they can choose to start at the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL) and go right up to CXC. We provide CXC classes for them, and many of them have gotten their ones and twos in CXC this year," Wright stated proudly.
With regard to skills training, she said, "We have the informal sector where if inmates can do something, they teach the other inmates, or we might have formal classes where they are taught by the correctional officers or an instructor who is paid by the DCS," explained Wright.
While the inmates have options, it is not so for the wards of the State, who are housed in four juvenile centres: Rio Cobre in Spanish Town; Hill Top in Bamboo, St Ann; Diamond Crest for girls in Manchester; and the St Andrew Remand Centre in St Andrew.
"We have formal education classes, which they must attend. The children in the juvenile institutions, they do CXC - that's those who are up to the standard. Those who are not up to the standard, they start from JFLL and they do literacy and numeracy classes and as soon as they are able, they go straight up to CXC," said Wright.
In 1975, the prisons, the probation services, and the approved schools, which functioned separately in the implementation and execution of the correctional functions of the Government, were merged to form the DCS.
The department has three core functional areas. These are custodial services (adults and juveniles); rehabilitation and human resource management; and community service.
PHOTOS BY KAREN SUDU