EDITORIAL: We must all help the ex-prisoner

beadottin, beadottin@nationnews.com

Added 09 November 2012

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It may not be the most pressing item on anyone’s political agenda; but a moment’s sober reflection will remind us that issues related to the treatment of prisoners rank highly for those attentive to the total welfare of the society. True, those who commit crime are part of the society, but they can hardly hope to get priority hearing when social resources are scarce and claimant demands are being made by other sectors. In addition, prisoners will have attracted the additional stigma of being a breed of people finding themselves appealing for help from the very society they had harmed. Understandably then, some citizens see punishing prisoners by locking them up and virtually throwing away the key as the only proper approach. After all, “prison is no hotel”. Sober reflection will not allow such thinking to predominate, because the society has a stake in every person, even he who breaks the law and is incarcerated on account of the gravity the breach. The political mandate to ensure the peace, order and good government of a country requires that the society allocate resources to the good of prisoners, and in particular to their rehabilitation – on the same principled basis that resources are devoted to other social challenges. But rehabilitation is not only a responsibility of the Government. The entire community has an obligation to do all it can to rehabilitate and reintegrate former prisoners into society. Earlier this week, Prison Fellowship Barbados chairman Win Callender disclosed that we now had a prison population of 1 100 and that recidivism, or repeat offending, was out of control. He pointed out that while our prison could do its best in working to rehabilitate inmates by providing training and counselling, without the support of our communities, that work could well go for naught. Mr Callender also says, quite rightly, that it is the responsibility of the Government to put policies in place to govern law and order within the society, but that the onus is on the various communities across the island to follow these rules, working toward peaceful and cordial relationships. While this approach is probably aimed more at preventing crime, it is also clear that Mr Callender’s organization fully supports the view that there is a broad societal responsibility to assist all those who show signs of wanting to shed their deviant ways and becoming rehabilitated in the society. But it will require total community effort; so that those young men and women who have offended against the law may be reclaimed. We urge stakeholders of our society to consider the matter of rehabilitation as a partial solution to crime. If it works, then it reduces the incidence of repeat offenders; and if offenders are rehabilitated, then they might be able to make some reparation to their victims. For much too often are the rights of the victim sidestepped, especially when the offender is penniless.

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