EDITORIAL: Rehabilitation of inmates good for society
At a time when this country’s economic challenges are impacting on areas such as education and health care, there will be little comfort in suggesting that more be done for inmates at HMP Dodds Prisons. But the reality is that rehabilitation of prisoners at this island’s penal institution is something which must not be ignored.
The suggestion from Anglican priest Reverend Trevor O’Neale to prison officers that they do more than simply apply the rules and regulations to those who have breached the law and must be punished is timely and welcome. Punishment without rehabilitation was the old and broken approach.
While the prison officers are doing their part, rehabilitation goes beyond them. The entire judicial system must play a part in the correctional process. Even more important will be the leadership of Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite and Superintendent of Prisons Lieutenant Colonel John Nurse, who must be in the forefront of instituting significant change. Fortunately, both men are strong on the rehabilitation of inmates.
There are clear alternatives in the reform of our prisoners and the operation of our penal system which must be considered – all in an effort to inspire and influence. At the same time, we must find ways of reducing our prison population and save taxpayer dollars while pushing down the crime rate.
So let us place greater focus on risk assessment and better probation procedures as we divert non-violent offenders away from the prison system and the hard-core criminals. Let us implement victim restitution measures, institute the drug courts and have effective drug abuse and mental health treatment.
The role of parole and probation officers will become more important so the judicial system can keep better track of offenders it supervises and help them stay on the right path. Proper preparation for re-entry into society is crucial and this requires correctional education for prisoners.
It will be cheaper in the long term to offer good rehabilitation programmes to inmates of HMP Dodds than to maintain these same inmates. Additionally, it is generally recognised that an educated prisoner is unlikely to become a repeat offender.
Clearly, at our prison we need to place greater emphasis on re-entry programmes which should be undertaken in tandem with, and complement, other existing efforts such as those focused on alcohol and drug abuse, stress and anger management, and life skills development.
Understandably, inmates must be encouraged to take stock of life experiences that have propelled them into criminality, to acknowledge such behaviour and look to build productive lives.
The ancient views, which still exist and suggest that prisoners be locked away, harshly treated and generally forgotten, must not be the dominant perspective since this will not benefit the society. Lives must be turned around through the benefits of prison education and rehabilitation programmes.
The benefits cannot be overstated.