Fri | Sep 17, 2021

Give reformed girls a chance, says prison boss

Published:Wednesday | June 4, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Marcia Wright (right), director of rehabilitation, Department of Correctional Services, shows off a Ludo board made by inmates of Tamarind Farm in St Catherine, to Achim Schaffert, head of section, European Union, at the Department of Correctional Services Mini-exposition, held last Wednesday at the the Horizon Adult Remand Centre in Kingston. - Jermaine Barnaby/photographer

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

Commissioner of Corrections Jevene Bent has appealed for more public support for girls who have broken the law and served time, to help them redeem themselves and make the transition back into society.

"We are asking Jamaica to help us to embrace them. They have done their time," she noted. "Some of them are really sorry for what they have done, and we are asking you to give them a chance because that's only the way we will have re-offending going down."

Bent added: "Our objective is to encourage the inmates not to reoffend when they leave us, and to leave with a skill or something to hold on to, so that they can become worthwhile citizens of this country, providing their amount of input in our country."

The corrections boss was speaking during last Wednesday's mini-exposition of a wide range of items made by inmates, including furniture, art and craft, metal craft and home-economics products, which were on display at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre on Spanish Town Road in Kingston.

She said the Correctional Services Department was pursuing new initiatives to build on the progress of its ongoing rehabilitation programme which has been making a positive difference in the lives of most of the inmates under its care.

In the meantime, National Security Minister Peter Bunting admitted that while there has been some measure of success with the rehabilitation programme for juveniles, especially girls, much more still needs to be done to improve the conditions under which children who break the law are housed, cared for and nurtured.

Bunting pointed to the ratio of wards to instructors/teachers, at less than 10 to one, as an indication of the improvements while admitting that the numbers by themselves do not tell the whole story.

Special needs

"We have very, very special needs among the population of juvenile inmates, so even though we might have a ratio of eight or nine students to one teacher or instructor as the case may be, the fact is, with a small cohort of, say, 40 to 50 at South Camp, the diverse levels at which they are ... ranging from completely illiterate to having special educational needs, and I overlay, oftentimes, some of the wards themselves have been victims of abuse, etc., so they need strong psychological, and in some cases, even psychiatric support," Bunting said.

"So it is an extremely challenging situation, but we are constantly working to improve it."