An exhibition and trade fair showcasing items made by juvenile wards and adult inmates of correctional facilities across the island, opened on Thursday (Oct. 29) at the Devon House Heritage site in Kingston.
The event, which will run until Sunday, November 1, forms part of activities being undertaken by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) in observation of Correctional Services Week from October 25 to November 1.
The items on display consist of small to large pieces of furniture – from trays and jewellery boxes to computer desks, bedroom sets, veranda sets, breakfronts, living and dining room sets, and entertainment centres. Items of clothing, bags and paintings, were also on display. Various pastries such as cakes, and coconut drops were also made by the inmates and wards, among other things.
Speaking with JIS News following the ceremony, Commissioner of Corrections, June Spence Jarrett, informed that all correctional institutions, both juvenile and adult, contributed pieces for the exhibit. The items can be purchased on spot or an order placed.
She explained that the proceeds from the sale of the items go into an account, which has been set up for the inmates. They can withdraw the money and send it home to take care of their children and other members of their family, as well as assist with their own upkeep.
Mrs. Spence Jarrett informed that Food For the Poor has been the Department’s major partner in the skills training and manufacturing programme, with the United Kingdom-based Department for International Development (DFID) coming on board last year and helping with infrastructural needs as well as rehabilitation programmes and training of staff.
All institutions have been equipped with trade training centres to do manufacturing and all inmates are expected to participate in the programme.
Commissioner of Corrections, June Spence Jarrett, (left) guides Chief Technical Director at the Ministry of National Security, Dianne McIntosh (centre) and consultant with the Department for International Development (DFID), Roger McGarver, through a tour of the Department of Correctional Service’s exhibit held on Thursday, October 29, at the Devon House Heritage site in Kingston. The exhibit, which includes a trade fair, showcases some of the items manufactured by wards and inmates of juvenile and adult correctional facilities across the island.
The Commissioner informed that special arrangements are being put in place for the island’s two largest facilities, Tower Street and the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centres, which respectively, house 1,600 and 1,200 inmates.
“What we have to be doing, is we set up tents and have the inmates go there for instructions,” she said, informing that it is correctional officers, who teach the inmates at the adult institutions.
In a bid to further expand the programme, Mrs. Spence Jarrett stated that she will be asking major furniture outlets Courts Jamaica Limited and Singer “to come on in and look at what we have to see if we can supply them with furniture.”
Consultant with the DFID, Roger McGarver, noted that the entity is working with the DCS to improve the skills of probation prison officers, and to improve the facilities in the prisons, “particularly the facilities around manufacturing goods and giving the opportunity for offenders in prisons to gain skills in tasks like doing welding, making furniture, etcetera.”
He noted that the items on display are of very high quality, even though the inmates are working with some materials and equipment that are “very ancient and could do with modernisation…I think it’s extremely good that prisoners and the prison staff manage to produce such exquisite products with such old equipment.”
Mr. McGarver opined that the Jamaican prison system has the potential to use prison labour more effectively, “because when prisoners are in prison, they’ve got time on their hands that can be used productively to make things and learn skills”.
“You have prison staff that can be trained to accredit prisoners with those skills and it’s a win for the prisoners, because they gain something, and it’s a win for the correctional officers because their skills are enhanced and they can see the offenders learning things,” he stated.
Chief Technical Director at the Ministry of National Security, Dianne McIntosh, in her remarks, praised the work of the Department in its bid to rehabilitate offenders, and hailed the skills training programme as an important aspect of this reform process.