Second chance a lifeline for former inmates
LAST FRIDAY three long-serving inmates of Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds got the best news they have had for many years – they were being freed for Christmas.
They joined other prisoners released over the past year, all of whom had served lengthy terms for serious crimes committed mostly in their formative years.
Psychologists and criminologists have indicated that someone who may have committed violent acts as a teenager is not the same person after 20 or more years in prison.
There are few exceptions to the case, but keeping that individual locked up longer will itself contribute to the problem; when hope dies, so too does humanity.
We live in an unforgiving society, where many feel the longer the sentence, the better. But such attitudes and approaches cannot be a solution to the problem of criminality or dealing with those who have paid their debt to society.
It was therefore refreshing to hear Superintendent of Dodds prison, Lieutenant Colonel John Nurse and his officers speak of the importance of a “second chance” programme – the process of reintegrating criminal offenders into the community.
The police constantly report plunging crime rates, yet imprisonment rates have been constantly rising. We have talked for a long time about instituting a parole system but have gone nowhere with it despite the obvious advantages.
We have a community service programme undertaken primarily at the Magistrates’ court level, but this too seems to have its limitations.
A second chance initiative can help cut prison costs – by making sure that people who are released from prison actually stay out; help reduce recidivism and encourage change. The second chance programme should also be tied to a community-based drug treatment programme and post-prison supervision, all of which can only redound to the benefit of the entire society.
It is important that employers not automatically deny employment to people based on arrest or conviction records. The employer must consider the situation today, particularly including what the official report from Dodds indicates.
Under the “second chance” programme, some efforts have been made to equip those long-serving inmates for re-integration with their family and society upon release from prison. We accept that on reflection on the crime, whether by victims, relatives or just citizens, there can be anger and frustration.
However, we need to recognize that we cannot imprison all convicted men forever. If those convicted have paid for their crimes, society needs to lend them a helping hand on return.
We need to get over the belief that “violent criminals” must be banished from society forever. There can be no gain for society if we have a large number of people in prison for too many years, with too little hope. Let us have a heart, not only at this season of hope and goodwill towards men, but on each and every day of the year.