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Volney talks of sweeping changes to prisons
Justice Minister Herbert Volney said the country's current rate of recidivism which currently stands at 55 per cent is unacceptable and untenable. Recidivism is the tendency to repeat criminal behaviour while the recidivism rate refers to the percentage of former prisoners who are re-arrested. Addressing 184 prison recruits during a passing out parade yesterday at the Golden Grove Prison, Arouca, Volney said, "It can no longer be business as usual in this vital protective service."
Volney delivered his first feature address to recruits as the minister yesterday, after the prisons service was transferred from under the purview of the Ministry of National Security. Volney said government was focused on rehabilitating offenders while also ensuring discipline and security was maintained within prison walls.
Revealing that he would be taking a note to Cabinet for the establishment of a Prison Ombudsman and Appeals Tribunal, Volney said both would have sweeping oversight functions that would "safeguard prison officers from falsehoods while protecting inmates from abuse." Volney also proposed to establish a Tripartite Advisory Standing Committee to assist his ministry in executing short- to long-term plans for restorative justice at the nation's prisons.
He unveiled some of the short-term plans which included additional toilets and showers for inmates; more generous airing hours; sporting hours at night; family visits; a village concept complete with a supermarket; sporting facilities; and a calling center through the use of a smart card.
Another initiative includes the introduction of various industries into the prison system which would provide skills training and a minimum wage, which could assist to care for prisoners' families, as well as mandatory reparation for victims. Not forgetting officers, Volney said among the issues he will be addressing will be promotions, housing, training, health and safety, accommodation and terms of service.
Assuring the recruits he would be speaking with National Security Minister Jack Warner about the security of prison officers and their families, Volney said it was his intention to "bring long overdue and sweeping changes to this institution that appears to have been forgotten over the years." Volney said he was currently "perfecting" a Cabinet note to improve an earlier approved policy statement on offender management, which will see the setting up of the Offender Management Division.
It is expected to rebrand the Division of Corrections and will comprise civilian officers; Electronic Monitoring officers; Liaison officers; and Parole officers. Prisons Commissioner Martin Martinez reminded recruits that although the prison service was rewarding, it was also a volatile one in which they were responsible for guiding and developing inmates.
Recruit Odell Thomas received a special award for gallantry after he foiled an attempted escape during his training period, while female recruit Naomi Williams was presented with a trophy for placing first in the final exam.
Craig Khan copped the title of Best All Round Recruit.
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