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National Security Minister, Senator Colonel Trevor MacMillan, has emphasised the importance of the rehabilitation of inmates in the island’s correctional facilities, in the thrust to curtail crime and violence.
He contends that appropriate rehabilitation programmes and activities undertaken in correctional facilities, could go a far way in ensuring that individuals, particularly first time offenders, do not return to a life of crime after they are released.
Speaking at the Department of Correctional Service’s awards dinner at the Hilton Kingston Hotel on October 28, Senator MacMillan noted that incarceration provides the State with a chance to make professional interventions into the lives of offenders in penal institutions.
“It is a fantastic opportunity to re-orientate their thinking, before grafting new skills on them. Prisoners are a captive audience, so officers who administer rehabilitation programmes do not have to compete with many of the other negative influences, for their attention. But, we must also remember that criminal networks know no borders,” the Minister said.
Noting that one of the priority tasks of law enforcement agents and, by extension, the country, is the containment of criminal activity, Senator MacMillan stressed that rehabilitation is a significant part of the solution. In this regard, he contends that the challenge is to transform correctional facilities into incubators, capable of nurturing “good behaviour.”
“The aim is to reduce the chance of first time offenders, returning to the society as hardened criminals. Successful rehabilitation programmes help to paralyse networks, and afford law enforcement officers, a little breathing space to tackle existing crimes. I want to place on record, how happy and relieved I am, that the Inmate Community Work Programme has been re-launched, and that many of the vocational training programmes have been expanded. This is a necessary investment, as it prevents our prison from becoming a revolving door.for criminals,” the Minister said.
Singling out the Fort Augusta Correctional Centre for Women in St. Catherine, for special mention, Mr. MacMillan said the rehabilitation work being undertaken there, enables virtually every inmate paroled, to leave with a skill. This is invaluable, as it equips the individual to pursue an honest livelihood, thereby raising their esteem, he said.
“It is not difficult to see how this helps to break the cycle of criminality. So the work has begun, but we must expand it aggressively. If we don’t, we are only compounding the problem, and in turn, the challenges before us,” Senator MacMillan argued.