Alternative sentencing could stem the high rate of prisoners passing through the criminal justice system’s revolving door in Barbados and the region, a top regional crime-fighter has recommended.
And amid mounting concern over crime, governments have become more preoccupied with getting tough on crime rather than on rehabilitation, contends Executive Director of the Regional Security System (RSS) Captain Errington Shurland.
“We are all too well aware that policy makers who face increasing crime levels often focus on being tough on crime. In doing so they often forget about the importance of rehabilitation and alternative sanction,” Captain Shurland said.
There are examples of criminal justice agencies exploring the use of electronic monitors, curfews, drug court and treatment courts for non-violent offenders, which Shurland suggested should be developed further as alternatives to incarceration.
The RSS official was delivering opening remarks this morning at Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, where the European Union was handing over machines to aid in developing inmates’ skills.
Shurland noted that even though some law enforcement agencies have demonstrated a willingness to explore these measures, policymakers have not fully evaluated their effectiveness in the light of policy, legal and cultural frameworks.
“My hope is that correctional facilities along with other components of the criminal justice system review these methods within the context of their own Caribbean territory. It is only then we have some knowledge base of the effectiveness of these technologies that have a higher probability of reducing crime and recidivism.”
He added that such initiatives would require financing but lamented that regional governments have been inconsistent in their efforts to rehabilitate prisoners.
In 2016, then Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite revealed that over a quarter of the prison population in Barbados is made up of repeat offenders and up to 40 per cent were prisoners on remand.
“Even in Barbados today as we speak, I believe that we have about 928 or about 930 inmates at [HMP] Dodds at this time, of which about 250 of them are recidivists. And that is an area of some concern to me,” Brathwaite said then.
The Attorney General said his office had spent a considerable amount of time trying to find ways not only to prevent “more young people from coming to us”, but to cut down on the number who reoffend.
One of the areas of concern, Brathwaite stated, was the absence of proper programmes and treatment for those on remand because of the uncertainty surrounding the duration of their stay.
“So it becomes even more difficult to put programmes in place to address these individuals. I think I am right when I say about 35 or 40 per cent of our present prison population are individuals on remand.”
He acknowledged that the correctional facilities in the region did not have all of the resources and professional services required to adequately help prisoners.
But the government’s chief legal adviser in 2016, declared confidence that the government of the day was “doing all of the right things” to help convicts reintegrate into society, including arming them with a variety of skills and recognized certification. (CM)