With approximately 3,000 persons being deported to Jamaica annually, coupled with the local offenders, there is absolutely no doubt that an effective rehabilitation system is needed.
Thanks to the British Government, who committed 2.97 million pounds sterling to the initiative, Jamaica is on its way to achieving state-of-the-heart rehabilitation facilities and well trained individuals, through the Jamaica Reducing Re-offending Action Plan (JRRAP) which was launched in June.
According to British Technical Officer in charge of Capacity Building, Roger Magarver, JRRAP has three components to it and will see deported persons and local ex-offenders being provided with accommodation, employment, education and skills training. Those who need it will also receive treatment for mental health and substance abuse problems.
“There are basically three strands to the programme. The first is for deported people. We want to develop a range of services for them, so that when they arrive in Jamaica they receive help in things like accommodation, health, and employment, which might contribute to them not committing other offenses,” he relates.
The second strand relate to local offenders, both those who were sent to prisons and those who are given non- custodial sentences.
“We will be assessing these individuals, looking at the risk or arm they present to the community, and then plan interventions that can help change their behaviour,” he notes.
Mr. Magarver says that the third element will look at strengthening services provided in the communities to both deported and local offenders, which will assist with employment, mental health and accommodation. One of the facilities that will benefit from this initiative is Community Group Homes Limited.
Consultant Psychiatrist at Community Group Homes Limited, Dr. Wendell Abel, says that the initiative is of critical importance as deported persons are normally mentally challenged, whether mild or severe, when they return home and, as such, they need a support system to reintegrate in to society.
“Many of the persons who are deported really do not have shelters, so they are left to find a means to survive and, as a result, they end up on the streets and turn to criminal activities. So the need was demonstrated for us to implement an emergency facility which we did six months ago,” Dr. Abel said.
He added that the facility is playing its part, because a significant number of persons in these situations show signs of mental health issues and substance abuse problem.
“We need to provide rehabilitation and treatment for such individuals,” he said.
British High Commissioner to Jamaica, Jeremy Cresswell (left), in discussions with Minister of National Security, Hon. Dwight Nelson, at the Launch of the Jamaica Reducing Reoffending Action Plan (JRRAP), recently.
Looking on are Commissioner of Corrections June Spence Jarrett (second
right) and Consultant Psychiatrist at Group Homes Limited, Dr. Wendell Abel.
The British Government committed a total of 2.97 million pounds(sterling) to the initiative which will see deported persons and local ex-offenders being provided with accommodation, employment, education and skills training.
Highlighting the importance of the intervention, Dr. Abel says that, on a frequent basis, the deportees have major problem re-entering into society and, as such, this initiative will help them become worthwhile to the development of the country.
“We recognize that many of the persons who have been deported have major problems of re-entry in to society. This is because they cannot readjust, or re-assimilate into society, and the need has been clearly shown to provide counselling,” he says.
“There is also the need to prepare these persons to re-enter the work force and, towards this end, they need intervention therapy to facilitate this move that is so necessary,” he informs.
Community Group Homes Limited, located at 50 Deanery Road, Vineyard Town, Kingston will be relocated downtown through the JRRAP initiative. The capacity is expected to expand beyond 10, through the initiative, which will provide for more space as most times families which are deported include children.
“We do have children, and when they are deported they are with their parents. So we have a lot of work to do, in not only rehabilitating parents but the entire family. The children find it more challenging, as it is quite hard to readjust to the school system in Jamaica which, in essence, is alien to them,” he points out.
A delighted Minister of National Security, Hon. Dwight Nelson, says that, through the JRRAP programme, the Government will be aiming to reduce the rate of recidivism, adding that there is a 23 per cent rate of reoffending in penal institutions.
The minister pointed out that the effort to reduce the number of reoffenders is of critical importance to the security of the country.
“We recognise that the influx of individuals who run afoul of the law in other jurisdictions, as well as in Jamaica, and spend time in penal institutions are urgent considerations for the security of this country,” he says.
He adds that there is an urgent need to build a rehabilitative bridge between civil society and the judicial and law enforcement processes.
Minister Nelson also adds that the Government is now developing strategies, which will help keep the approximately 1800 local offenders from recommitting new offenses.
“The Jamaican Government is now developing strategies (through JRRAP) to keep the estimated 1,800 offenders who are released from local penal institutions, annually, from recommitting offences and being sent back to prison,” the Minister asserts.
The Correctional Services Department is the main body that will benefit from this intervention, especially in capacity building, as they will be providing such things as accommodation and other services that will help in the rehabilitation process.
Speaking to JIS News, Acting Commissioner of Corrections, June Spence Jarrett, welcomes the assistance that is being provided to her department of correctional services under JRRAP.
“The infrastructure is weak and we have to be doing a number of things on limited resources. The programme is affording our staff members training, which is excellent, especially our middle managers and this will help them to deliver what we have. It’s really very good and we appreciate it so much,” she emphasize.
JRRAP is being implemented over the next 20 months, ending in March 2011. Funding for the Re-integration of Offenders and Deported Persons programme, and by extension, JRRAP is being provided by the British Government.
A major part of the Jamaica Reducing Reoffending Action Plan is the launch of a communication strategy. This aims to raise awareness among deported persons and ex-offenders about the services available to them through civil society partners, such as Community Group Homes Limited.