Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 10, 2017 (SKNIS): Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris and Minister of Gender Affairs and Social Services, Honourable Wendy Phipps, have revealed the government’s plans to strengthen the ongoing rehabilitation programme for those incarcerated at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) during the Prime Minister’s monthly press conference on May 10, 2017.
Prime Minister Harris stated that the government is in the process of recruiting an individual with interests and knowledge in forensic psychology to work with residents at the prison.
Minister Phipps said that over the years a number of persons in the public “who are civic minded” have been contributing to the rehabilitation of prisoners from an educational standpoint, that is, getting them ready to join the workforce after their period of incarceration has ended.
“What the Department of Gender Affairs and Social Services is now doing, in part with Junie Hodge, Superintendent of Prisons, is in terms of a more structured buildout when it comes to educational development of the inmates,” she said.
The minister said that the public would have been informed that there has been an increase in subject passes among prison inmates and that it must be commended.
“So, what our department is now doing is now assisting with the buildout of a proper classroom equipped with the necessary furniture and audio-video supports that would aid learning,” she said. “It is a project for which we will be approaching the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education (Honourable Shawn Richards) on to have support in a more structured manner.”
Minister Phipps said that in addition, the rehabilitation efforts will include a gender sensitization programme that is in the works.
“So, that would become a requirement before prisoners leave the system in an effort to make them more gender sensitive and in cases where their incarceration would have been due to domestic violence or sexual offences,” she said. “You would hope that you could make a difference in that regard.”
The minister said that the government is also looking at international best practices in relation to the avoidance of persons repeating offences. She said that this would deny the likelihood of offenders returning to a life of crime after they have served their sentence.
“The U.S model that we are looking at is one that Texas has in place right now deliberately so because Texas has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the United States,” said the minister. “There are programmes that are now emerging that show that whereas in the Texas prison system the cost to maintain one prisoner might be running in the region of about US$ 50 a day, the cost of a rehabilitation programme to avoid recidivism is probably floating at about US$ 1 per day, per such individual. So, the programme that we are looking at would be more holistic. It would look at issues such as, not just education, which we have started already, but in terms of family reintegration.”
Minister Phipps said that the government is also looking at social engagements so that these persons can be reaccepted over time in their communities.
The government is also looking at the possibility of entrepreneurship. “There might be a consideration for the Fresh Start Programme to be available to those who might be so minded to start business,” she said.
The issue of housing for former inmates was also mentioned at the press conference.
“We are going to be looking at the issue of housing because it isn’t everybody who has had a period of incarceration that their family wants them back,” said Minister Phipps. “By extension it might be difficult to get them to become tenants because certain persons who would have long memory and also fearfulness might not necessarily want to have somebody with a criminal record as a tenant.”
Minister Phipps said that the prospects of this would be looked at over time. However, that particular programme that they are looking at would be a project that spans over twelve months.
“So, at the end of which, you would have some sort of proper graduation out of the system and of course we would be looking at on the support of a broad spectrum of stakeholders to assist us with that including, but not limited to, the private sector.”