Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite is once again making a case for the assimilation of the former convict into the society at large: specifically back into the family from whence he came, and into the general workforce. Mr Brathwaite is particularly pained by the homelessness he sees of ex-offenders.
Too often, he says, these former inmates, after leaving HMS Dodds, are faced with having no proper shelter because their families would rather not have them around, or if they would, the ex-offenders must as a condition find themselves a job –– which could be most challenging in itself.
The Minister of Home Affairs knows quite well, since he himself points to it, that having a criminal record –– particularly a serious one –– is a deterrent to securing a job. As much as we may philosophize about former prisoners deserving a second chance, and even a third, the reception of ex-convicts into the general workplace cannot be automatic, and these poor former prisoners ought not to be made to believe that it is.
Worse yet, they ought not to be sold the concept that it is their right.
People jailed for theft, robbery and more violent acts, and released after incarceration –– and hopefully rehabilitation –– still have to win prospective employers’ confidence and trust, which does not happen on “say so”. These employers also have to be satisfied that their current employees will be comfortable themselves with the new addition to the staff.
These comforts will not come merely because the Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs wishes they would.
Mr Brathaite asks how do we ensure that whilst enforcing the law we do not spoil an otherwise potentially good life by “criminalizing” someone for an offence he committed when he was a youngster. He asks: “If you don’t employ a young man with six or seven CXCs because of a transgression he made when he was 18 or 19, and for which he has paid his dues, where are you sending him to make a living?”
Aren’t these circumstances an 18- or 19-year-old with six or seven CXCs ought to have given thought to before committing crime in the first place? Let’s face it. Life after crime will never be any guaranteed bed of roses –– certainly not in the domain of law-abiding citizens, who themselves resist every temptation to commit crime, even when it might benefit them and they could possibly get away with it.
Mr Brathwaite opines that there may be a link between the “failures . . . throughout the education system” and why some young people end up in the criminal justice system, and would welcome a “scientific approach” that would prove him right naturally and “ensure that the issues that exist are not allowed to continue”.
Ironically, the same education system that the Minister of Home Affairs would put a hole in has produced the vast majority of educated, non-criminal, law-abiding citizens in this country –– including Mr Brathwaite himself.
Like the minister, we worry about those lads especially who go through the full school system and come out still challenged in writing and reading. Clearly, they have not being doing any work. It is not difficult to carry out the same poor task for 12 years if you will; less arduous to do nothing at all.
Everybody knows who doesn’t do work at school –– and who gives trouble. Often, it is more “pragmatic” and expedient to leave the troublemakers alone than to have to face the belligerence of parents and the double take of the Ministry of Education when the same parents and their obstreperous charges complain to it about unduly harsh treatment.
Mr Brathwaite makes the point that he is not soft on crime. How could he when seeing an alleged drug baron driving around in a “beautiful-looking vehicle” while he himself must truck along in his “old” car incenses him?
We accept in principle that offenders who have truly mended their ways ought to be give a second chance; that they ought not to be automatically written off. But they must also be made to understand the road ahead will not be easy; that the onus will be on the rehabilitated to prove their worth and trust. It will not be a cakewalk!
Getting a job by those with no record at all is not easy either these days. Even so, they have to prove valuableness in the first place, and competency in the second.
All ex-offenders need to be truthfully told they must prove themselves as being worthy of a second chance through their good work ethic in re-entry into society. Declaring they have been rehabilitated will not now be enough. In time, by their good works, the country will come to see the efficacy of Dodds’ reintegration programmes.
Add to this early intervention in stopping our youth from getting involved in crime, and the consequent reduced agony of our Attorney General and those to come after him.