JIS News

Donald Miller, Island Coordinator in the Correctional Services Department, is promoting increased use of Community Service Orders (CSO) in the court system, noting that it was a viable sentencing option for first time offenders.
“I would also love to see the JPs (Justice of the Peace) utilizing their role in the petty session courts in placing persons on CSO,” Mr. Miller said, as he addressed a stakeholders workshop held at the Church of God in Jamaica on Chapelton Road, May Pen recently under the theme: ‘Promoting Rehabilitation through CSOs.’
“It is a practical option of rehabilitation in that the person can get a chance to practise in their skill area and you can watch them at work as opposed to the other options such as suspended sentence, probation order, fine, and imprisonment,” he noted further.
Pointing to the benefits of CSOs, he said it saved on the cost of keeping the offender in prison, promoted greater understanding by the community of the offender, the community benefited from the unpaid service of the offender, and it improved citizen participation in the justice system.
He noted also, that offenders were able to continue their regular jobs to maintain their families, the system promoted discipline and good work attitude and ultimately a change in lifestyle among offenders.
CSO is one of a number of non-custodial sentencing options available to the courts for mostly first time offenders, aged 17 years and older, who are required to serve between 40 and 360 hours of unpaid work, and possibly up to 480 hours if given consecutive or concurrent sentences.
Some 923 agencies and organizations participate in the programme island wide to offer placement opportunities, while the programme is monitored by 22 probation officers.
Mr. Miller informed the meeting that over the period September 2002 to May 2005, some 5,392 offenders had been placed on CSOs, with 1,944 sentences completed. While 90 per cent of the cases were completed satisfactorily, problems with inadequate social enquiry and lack of proper monitoring, affected the other 10 per cent of cases. Mr. Miller informed however, that these problems were being addressed especially with the roll out of a “new look” correctional system in September 2002. There are now 1,250 persons currently serving CSOs.
In the effort to promote greater use of CSOs, the Department of Correctional Services has staged 683 public education and sensitization sessions island wide during the last 33 months, and the Department intends to have at least eight such sessions per month as part of its ongoing improvement programme.
Meanwhile, Melbert Witter, Regional Director for Region Two, told the gathering that there were some 151 offenders involved in the CSO programme in the parish, some out 101 participating agencies, and three monitoring officers.