'Rehabilitate to curb recidivism'
EU ambassador urges Gov't to increase rehab effort in prisons
Richard Mitchell, Staff Reporter
Since 2010, the European Union (EU) delegation to Jamaica has been deeply involved with the rehabilitation efforts inside Jamaica's prisons. Ambassador Paola Amadei, head of the EU delegation to Jamaica, points to the high level of recidivism in Jamaica as a reason why the EU continues to push for rehabilitation.
"Jamaica has a high level of recidivism; in fact, the number is around 29 per cent," Amadei said.
"This means that one out of three persons will go back to prison. Re-offenders then go on to raise the level of crime, which in turn discourages tourists from visiting and investors from investing," the ambassador told The Gleaner.
Amadei looks to Belize as an example where rehabilitation has been successful in reducing recidivism.
"If you look at Belize, their prison's primary focus is rehabilitation. Before their rehabilitation efforts, the recidivism rate in Belize was around Jamaica's. Now, it is reduced by half," the ambassador explained.
Amadei concluded that everyone benefits when prisoners use the time spent in prison to better themselves.
"As part of their rehabilitation in Belize, prisoners learn skills, including computer, culinary, music and carpentry. These skills are used in prison and can be used when they are released."
"The items they make inside prison are then sold; these goods in turn provide the state, themselves and their families with well-needed funds."
As part of its rehabilitation efforts in Jamaica, the EU in 2014 partnered with the charity organisation Stand Up for Jamaica. The EU provided €$73,000 to the organisation to bolster its efforts in providing a formal education to prisoners. Over 30 prisoners at the Tower Street and Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Facilities participated in the project and many successfully obtained passes in CSEC subjects in 2014.
Maria Carla Gullotta, executive director of Stand Up for Jamaica, says the organisation will continue its mandate of helping Jamaican inmates rehabilitate as long as it has the funds to do so.
"The response to the initiative last year was great, and the students became excited when they saw the results of last year's batch. This year, we plan to continue providing 37 prisoners at the Tower Street and Fort Augusta prisons with teachers, equipment and examination fees."
In considering the cost versus benefits of these initiatives, Ambassador Amadei understands that under current budgetary limitations trade-offs have to be made by the Government of Jamaica. However, she notes, "If you measure the cost of imprisoning re-offending prisoners versus the cost of rehabilitation, you see rehabilitation is cheaper."