JIS News

The first study to be done in Jamaica and the Caribbean examining the impact of imprisonment on women and their families was launched recently at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
The research entitled ‘Women in Prison: The Impact of the Incarceration of Jamaican Women on themselves and their Families’ was conducted by Dr. Aldrie Henry-Lee, principal investigator and funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
According to Dr. Cheryl Gopaul of CIDA/Canadian High Commission, the research points out that one of the greatest punishments for the incarcerated mother is the separation from her children and other dependents. The research raises fundamental questions relating to the role of the extended family, the community, and the state with respect to the support system for the children and dependents.
“The research also highlights the impact on children’s long term development, the need for gender consideration in the justice system, the re-integration of incarcerated women and their dependents, and the importance of responsive social policy and programs,” Dr. Gopaul acknowledged.
Explaining the rationale for the research, Christine Scott-Dunkley, Project Steering Committee member, noted, “As a committee we wanted to understand and communicate to the public including policymakers what drives women who are mothers to take such risks that might result in incarceration and separation from their families.”
“The topic started from an article in the newspaper where some mothers in prison expressed concern about their children at home and how emotional they got on visiting days. The PIOJ then decided that the issue needed further investigation,” stated Mary Clarke, Manager of the Social Development and Gender Unit at the PIOJ.
She added, “I really hope this study will be used in the spirit in which it was intended, that is, to identify areas for interventions and improvements in the quality of life of vulnerable groups. I hope the book will be used by policymakers, social workers, law students and persons generally in the criminal justice system.”
In discussing the findings Dr. Aldrie Henry-Lee said the five research areas included: the quality of life experienced by incarcerated women in the Fort Augusta Women’s Correctional Facility; the impact of incarceration on the female inmates; the impact of incarceration of Jamaican women in Fort Augusta on their children and dependents; the impact on the children and dependents of Jamaican women incarcerated in the United Kingdom, and the quality of life of recently released mothers.
“The majority of the current inmates, 86 per cent, were incarcerated because of drug offences. The main reason given by 85.7 per cent of them for committing a crime was economic deprivation,” commented Dr. Henry-Lee.
Also speaking at the launch, Major Richard Reese, Commissioner of Corrections, noted, “Fortunately, the inmate population has fallen significantly from a high of 270 in 2004 to 175 as at December 12, 2005 which represents a 35 per cent reduction in the muster.”
“This decline”, he continued, “is directly attributed to the efforts of the Ministry of National Security, the British High Commission and the Jamaica Constabulary Force through Operation Trident and Operation Kingfish. The Community Service Enhancement Project funded by DFID (Department for International Development), UK has also assisted in reducing the inmate population.”

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