JIS News

There is a buzz of activity behind the walls of some of the island’s correctional institutions, as inmates get involved in various farming ventures to better assist their integration back into society.
At Tamarind Farm in St. Catherine, low risk prisoners are involved in various types of animal rearing and crop production on several acres of rich farmland.
In fact, these inmates are able to earn an income, as their produce will be sold through the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), following the signing of an agreement (alliance) between the Society and the Correctional Services Production Company (COSPROD), recently.
President of the JAS, Norman Grant informs JIS News that the Society will provide certain services, one of which is the provision of specific officers who will be assigned to the project to provide technical and agronomy type help, as it relates to the growing of crops and the rearing of animals. Also under this programme, the JAS will provide seeds, tools and training for inmates.
“We will provide seeds, details of those arrangements will be worked out, and we will get an officer to go in and train the inmates how to grow different crops by using the proper cultural practices,” Senator Grant says.
The President notes that there are discussions already taking place between both organizations for the loan of a JAS tractor to assist in the clearing of lands at the Richmond Farm Correctional Centre. “Over time, once we have confidence in an operator, we will allow an inmate who is so trained to operate the tractor. In the initial stage, we will send our operators in to train inmates to drive and operate the tractor and over time, we can leave that tractor there,” Senator Grant tells JIS News.
Once the cash crops are ready for reaping, COSPROD will have a ready market for what is not consumed within the facility, as the JAS will buy the excess through its Central Marketing System.
From the sale proceeds, the inmates will receive monetary gain, yet to be decided, through a special programme. “When some of these inmates complete their time, what I want to see is where we can reward them based on their productivity and some savings can go toward their children, so that when they are released they are not starting from scratch but there is something they can start with to be able to adjust to society quickly,” says Senator Grant.
The President also wants to see some of these inmates becoming official members of the JAS. “We want to see JAS membership accorded to them in the institution so that when they come out.they can be accredited by the JAS as members and signed off by COSPROD as good behaving inmates who have been transformed into farmers/business persons,” he adds.
The President informs that the JAS is in discussions now for parcels of land that are going to be divested by Government, so that consideration can be given to released inmates that are members of the JAS.
At Richmond Farm, the objective is to have at least 60 per cent of the 350 acres of land involved in the programme in eight to nine months. Already, the JAS has supplied the institution with pumpkin seeds.
Chairman of COSPROD, Major Charles Rodriquez tells JIS News that the company was formed in 1994 as the main vehicle for rehabilitation in the island’s main male adult correctional centre. It was later introduced to Richmond Farm in 1995 and at Tamarind Farm in 1997. This was followed by Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre and it has since been quite active in these three institutions, training inmates in various skills.
The Chairman points out that the objectives of COSPROD are to provide opportunities for the inmates of these institutions to be trained in any area of skill offered at the institution; to channel their energy in organized labour, hence enabling them to be productive and provide food for the institutions, making the correctional service self sufficient.
This, he says, will also enable them to utilize the skills learnt to make them productive citizens as they are rehabilitated from a life of crime.
At Tower Street, operations are conducted on approximately 7 acres of land, offering training in vegetable production, poultry rearing (broiler meat and egg production), block making, furniture manufacturing and joinery.
Major Rodriquez tells JIS News that at Tamarind Farm, some 150 acres of land are being cultivated, offering training in crop production such as vegetable, ackee, mango and other orchard crops. There is also poultry rearing, animal husbandry to include cattle, sheep and pigs.
At Richmond Farm, inmates are trained in vegetable, citrus, coconut and cocoa production, as well as cattle and poultry rearing and block making.
Currently, COSPROD is operating below its capacity as the institutions suffered a $10 million loss during the passage of Hurricane Ivan last year September, a situation from which they are still making efforts to recover.