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Sunday lunch and Skype for good behaviour

Published: 
Saturday, July 21, 2018
Prison Service launches rehabilitative programmes
Prison Commissioner Gerard Wilson, right and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Vel Lewis during the launch of the T&T Prison Service’s #180AboutTurn campaign at the Prison Sports Club in Arouca yesterday. PICTURE ABRAHAM DIAZ

Well-behaved prisoners will soon be allowed to purchase specially catered meals on weekends.

The initiative was announced by Prisons Commissioner Gerard Wilson as he delivered the feature address at the launch of the T&T Prison Service’s #180AboutTurn campaign at the Prison Sports Club in Arouca.

The campaign is part of the service’s 180th-anniversary celebrations and features several other initiatives geared towards the rehabilitation of inmates.

Wilson explained that pre-approved caterers would provide meals to prisoners who can afford them.

“Part of the funds collected will be used to purchase toiletries for (prisoners) who may not get family visits,” Wilson said.

In addition to having the external meal option, prisoners are also set to be issued with new electronic cards which would allow them to purchase food and toiletries from the canteen when their relatives are not around.

“This should not be mistaken for a food card, which was the perception of some members of the public when the idea was first mentioned,” Wilson said as he explained that the card would be topped up by inmates’ relatives.

Another initiative noted by Wilson was a programme which allowed inmates to have 30 minute Skype sessions with their children for reading and assistance with their homework. That initiative is being done in conjunction with the National Library and Information System Authority (Nalis), which provides the facilities for the children to communicate with their incarcerated parents.

Wilson noted that an inmate’s ability to access the new initiatives depended on their disciplinary record as well as their successful participation in other programmes currently on offer at the nation’s prison facilities. A similar model has been successful in Jamaica, Wilson said.

Stating that the service understood that it would receive less funding due to national economic issues, Wilson said prison officers had developed initiatives which could raise revenue to be reinvested for inmates welfare and reform.

“Pepper sauce, green seasoning and kuchela, made and bottled by the hard-working agriculture department, will soon be a reality as Cariri has recently approved its quality and shelf life,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the initiatives were created after extensive consultations with prison officers at various levels in the service.

Wilson also sought to address members of the public who criticised previous initiatives without understanding their role in rehabilitating inmates.

Referring to recent negative social media comments, Wilson said: “This created awareness and rude awakening that the citizenry is hurting so much over crime, that the thought of rehabilitation and reformation is not something palatable enough to ease their pain.”

“The irony in taking this approach finds favour with the fact that these same individuals whom we are told to ignore may just continue on the same path when granted bail or released after their term of incarceration,” Wilson said as he noted that 95 per cent of inmates in the prison system would be eventually released.

To combat misinformation over the service’s move to restorative justice, Wilson said it would be launching public awareness campaigns and a new user-friendly website.

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