Black Immigrant Daily News
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has realised savings of over $100 million on food purchases, with the institution attaining self-sufficiency in several agricultural items as a result of its Rehabilitation Programme.
During the current financial year, inmates in the correctional system have produced more than 250,000 pounds of chicken, 252 million eggs, and several thousand pounds of other items, on 17 acres of land.
Another seven acres are to be put into production soon.
“We have raised the bar; we are producing, and we are going to do better as we go along. We are in a growth mode and are providing training and grants of $50,000 to persons who are qualified to start their own businesses,” said Deputy Commissioner at the DCS, Dr Marc Thomas, in an interview with JIS News.
Rehabilitation programmes at the DCS include various vocational skills, woodwork, welding, tailoring, auto mechanics, plumbing, masonry, jewellery making, art and craft, and electrical installation. There are also literacy and numeracy studies at the basic, intermediate and advanced levels, and life skills.
Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Zavia Mayne (second left), observes inmates at work at Tamarind Farm Correctional Centre. Others pictured (from left) are Superintendent Glenford Clarke; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Courtney Williams, and Manager of Rehabilitation at the Tamarind Farm Correctional Centre, Theresa Peat Shand. (Photo: JIS)
The other training initiatives are information technology (Microsoft Office and Media), conflict management, stress management and preparing for work.
There is also a programme for leisure and recreation in the areas of cricket, dominoes, football, chess and other activities.
Dr Thomas, who is in charge of rehabilitation, probation and alternative services at the DCS, said training is a “major component” of the programmes being used to ensure that persons who enter the prison system, on their release do not return to a life of crime.
“We stick to the science always, and it is important that we do so. We know what works, and once you are educated, you are less likely to re-offend. Once you have some employment and training, the likelihood of inmates going back to their earlier lifestyle is significantly diminished,” Dr Thomas argued.
The department also offers mentorship programmes, spiritual engagement initiatives, therapy, how to de-escalate conflicts, and programmes to gain subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level.
“We have a raft of options that our inmates can benefit from, if they so choose,” Dr Thomas said.
For Manager of Rehabilitation at the Tamarind Farm Correctional Centre, Theresa Peat Shand, “We are doing well at the CSEC level.”
“When you consider the population, 62 per cent passed at least one subject and 31 per cent at least two subjects. We are doing extremely well,” she said.
Children in the care of the DCS have to be engaged in rehabilitation.
“You have to go to school, and you have to participate in the activities that we offer. For the adults, it is voluntary, and we are engaging them in 20 programmes across the institutions, and we have been seeing great success,” Dr Thomas said.
At the tertiary level, Peat Shand reports that inmates have graduated with associate degrees in business.
She points out that the DCS is partnering with the HEART/NSTA Trust, to empower inmates with vocational certificates for their life after prison.
Currently, the DCS offers an associate degree in business administration, and through a partnership with the University College of the Caribbean (UCC), they will be establishing a certificate in entertainment management.
Dr Thomas said that the education programmes facilitate literacy and numeracy, which is part of the rehabilitation process in the correctional system.
The programmes are designed to address the deficiencies identified, through assessment, at the time when each offender enters the system.
They are administered through the Rehabilitation Unit and are carried out at various adult and juvenile centres, as well as at the community level.
During October, the Department observes Corrections Month, when the skills and talents of inmates and wards in the vocational areas are displayed.
Partnerships with major stakeholders help to enhance the rehabilitation process. They are Stand Up For Jamaica, Food For the Poor, the British Council, Beulah Baptist International Church, Nova Southern University, United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and recording artiste Agent Sasco.
An inmate told JIS News that before being imprisoned and entering the remedial education programme, he could not read and speak properly, adding that it has made him a “better person”.
Another inmate shares that he “feels more confident” about himself, gaining reading skills that he will be passing on to his grandchildren when he is released.
Yet another inmate said that the tailoring skills that he got through the DCS are now his “pride and joy”, and he is looking forward to operating his own fashion business.
The Department of Correctional Services, which falls under the Ministry of National Security, is comprised of seven adult correctional centres, one adult remand centre, four juvenile centres, and 17 community service offices (probation offices), located islandwide.
Its mission is to “contribute to the safety and protection of our society by keeping offenders secure and facilitating their rehabilitation and reintegration as law-abiding citizens while developing a professional and committed staff”.
The DCS, headed by a Commissioner of Corrections, is informed by a correctional process, which provides a relevant, structured, therapeutic environment to facilitate the empowerment and rehabilitation of those being cared for by the State.