Ex-offenders are stigmatized, discriminated against and disadvantaged because of their criminal records, and they need to be empowered through biblical and educational teachings.
That view was expressed recently by Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development Steven Blackett, at the closing ceremony of the Prison Fellowship conference at the Church of God of Prophecy, Water Street, Christ Church.
“In numerous instances, many of the incarcerated were not previously habilitated and so, a programme of habilitation ought to undergird our attention and interventions as we seek to empower inmates through biblical and educational teachings and other strategies, in pursuit of redeeming and forgiving the past and positively transforming the future,” he said.
Blackett noted that stigma hurts the chances of ex-offenders securing employment and other social and economic goods, and he stressed the importance of “giving ex-offenders a second chance”.
He also opined that incarceration not only affected offenders, but also their children and families, and their emotional, spiritual and material needs should therefore be taken into account.
“Against the backdrop of the exponential rise in criminal activity in the region, there will be an increasing and urgent need for programmes such as your Angel Tree Programme. The incarceration of greater numbers of males and fathers across the region…as a consequence of the rise in criminal activity, presents us with increasing numbers of children who need the care and attention of our societies as a whole,” Blackett stated.
The Social Care Minister emphasized that the relevance and significance of the Prison Fellowship programme could not be overstated, given the social, physical and financial costs associated with crime and incarceration, and he pledged his ministry’s continued support for its initiatives.