Barbados spends over $50,000 annually for every person sent to jail, says criminologist Yolande Forde, who wants to see less focus on incarceration and more on crime prevention.
Forde, the island’s first director on National Task Force on Crime Prevention until 2000, made the comment Monday night during a panel discussion hosted by the Men’s Group at the Maurice Byer Polyclinic, St Peter on How And Why Crime Raises Its Ugly Head And What Can We Do About.
Exposing what she saw as weaknesses in the current system, Forde warned that “locking up” prisoners was at the taxpayers’ expense and not the jailed perpetrator.
Therefore, she said there was no reason to rejoice over the fact that “the police got de man” or for Barbadians to suggest that prisoners “want locking up and pelting away the key”.
“[Barbadians] say it like if all of a sudden we got the crime under control, like they don’t understand that a stabbing is going to occur the next week,” said Forde, who stressed that the arrest and conviction of criminals was at the society’s expense.
“Don’t get confused, it’s us that pay the debt. Those fellas sitting down and lying down up there [in prison] don’t pay anything. It is us paying. It is our taxpayers’ money.”
The criminologist also contended that “prison is not cheap”, as she presented a crude calculation, in which took the figure of $29,324,293 given in the 2016-17 Estimates of Expenditure for prison expenditure and added to it the $20 million paid every January to the builders of Dodds prison, then divided it by the total prison population of 950 inmates, as of April this year.
“It comes to $53,631.58. That’s the approximate cost to keep one man in prison a year.
“I know Barbadians who don’t work for that,” Forde said.
However, she suggested that it was the Barbadian public and not the authorities who were responsible for the heavy financial load since, she said, cries were often heard of, “lock he up man, lock he up”.
Forde, a criminologist with 24 years experience, cautioned against mass imprisonment, saying “very often [prisoners] come out worst than when they went in; and two-thirds of them return to prison”.
She stressed the need for “real crime prevention work”.
“This erroneous perspective is certainly reflected in the budgetary allocations of funds, which see far more money being spent on security hardware, policing paraphernalia and other ‘response requirements’ like prison, rather than activities and programming that address many of the factors that predispose persons to criminal behaviour,” she said.