JIS News

Individuals locked up in correctional facilities are often considered a drain on the state’s resources, while seemingly oblivious to the challenges faced by taxpayers whose taxes maintain the institutions and sustain their welfare.
However, the Department of Correctional Services’ (DCS) Inmate Work Programme seeks to change this conception, by actively engaging inmates in activities which are beneficial to themselves and the society.
The programme, which aims at rehabilitation and empowerment, utilises the labour of moderate to low-risk inmates from adult correctional facilities in the clean-up and beautification of public places.
Now in its second year of operation, some 18 work projects have been completed, with inmates carrying out extensive work in the parishes of St. Mary, Manchester, St. Catherine and Kingston.
State Minister in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Arthur Williams, who has ministerial responsibility for the programme, explained, in an interview with JIS News, that for this year the programme will continue to focus on the maintenance of public buildings, mainly schools and police stations.
“We will still continue our bushing and cleaning, because that is necessary in many instances, but we are also looking closely at keeping public buildings in a state of repair. We have enough skills within the institutions to be able to do that,” Senator Williams said.
The inmates benefit greatly, as the programme prepares them for the work world when they are released by instilling proper work ethics. They also earn a stipend for their efforts.
Senator Williams pointed out that there are plans to increase the stipend of $150 per day, through fund raising activities.
“We formed a committee to support the programme, and one of the objectives of that private sector committee is to raise funds so that we can increase the stipend paid to the prisoners,” the State Minister pointed out. A dinner was held recently to support the effort.
The National Committee for Inmate Public Work Programme also monitors the programme, by visiting and assessing the work projects and ensuring that it runs smoothly.
The work projects, which are supervised by both police and correctional officers, include inmates from the Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre, in St. Mary, giving the Zion Hill Primary School in the parish a facelift. The work entailed painting buildings and the bushing and cutting grass on the playing field. Similar clean-up activities took place in other schools in the parish.
In addition, 44 inmates from four correctional institutions participated in a major outdoor clean-up exercise at the Fort Augusta Correctional Centre, Port Henderson, St. Catherine. The scope of works included bushing the property, from the entrance to the gates of the fort, clearing spillways, removing debris, chopping down overgrown trees and cleaning the moat.
Another group of inmates carried out clean-up activities at the Greater Portmore Police Station in St. Catherine. The White Marl Primary and Junior High School in St. Catherine benefitted from a two-day clean-up by over 40 inmates from various correctional facilities.
Woodlands Primary School in Cross Keys Manchester, also received a facelift from the inmates. Work at the school included the painting of the building and fixtures and general cleaning and bushing of the surroundings.
Senator Williams noted that, apart from bushing and cleaning, there are now plans to utilise a whole range of skills available in the penal institutions for the benefit of the society.
“We have carpenters, plumbers, tilers, wood workers, metal work men – every skill is there, and so in terms of buildings, we have the skills to keep buildings in a state of repair. We plan to utilise more of the people with skills, not just those who can use machetes, but those who have a skill that can be utilised for the benefit of the public,” Senator Williams said.
The inmates who are not selected, are not entirely left out, as those who possess certain expertise, are allowed to make use of these skills within the institutions.
Meanwhile, Acting Commissioner of Corrections, June Spence-Jarrett, assured that there is no security risk posed by the programme, as the inmates who participate are carefully selected by the National Committee for Inmate Work Programme. She noted that there is a risk assessment instrument which is used to determine the inmates’ level of risk.
“There are a number of scores that are allotted to each (inmate). That is going to be based on the offences that they commit, and their status, whether they are recidivists (repeat offenders) or not,” Mrs. Spence Jarrett explained.
“For this programme, we have had no escapes, no attempts to escape, no incidents,” the Acting Commissioner confirmed.
She noted that even though the police partners with the Department, the correctional officers provide maximum security for the prisoners. “They (police) might send two or more officers depending on the size of the group,” she said.
Both Senator Williams and Mrs. Spence-Jarrett agreed that the response to the programme has been good from both inside and outside of institutions.
“From the outside, the public has accepted the programme as a good one. They accepted that it is one that is risk free. Inside, the inmates welcome the opportunity to be able to work outside, and be able to earn something more to keep them going while they are incarcerated, and to save something for when they come out. They are all committed to doing their part to ensure that it continues without any problems,” the State Minister noted.
Senator Williams added that the rehabilitative nature of the programme is vital, as it gives the inmates an opportunity to relate to people outside, and allows them to hone their skills and build confidence.
“We know it will help in their reintegration into society when they are released,” he said.

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