Businesses and charitable organisations are still not doing enough to assist with the reintegration of ex-criminals into society, according to Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson.
As he addressed Sunday’s Prison After Care Committee’s Church service at a Nazarene congregation at Westmorland, St. James, Hinkson noted a large number of former prisoners are trapped in a cycle in which they end up behind bars just four years after their release.
Citing an Inter American Development Bank (IADB) study conducted last year, Hinkson disclosed that 61 percent of the approximately 760 prisoners at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Dodds had already been in prison. The average time between their previous release and their current arrest, according to the study, is just 44 months and according to the Home Affairs Minister, the business community in particular has a massive role to play.
“Coming out of Dodds, there’s a challenge with reintegration into our communities and their involvement in the socio-economic life of this country. The issue, as we said, is that a lot of employers don’t wish to give these people an opportunity and that therefore speaks directly to the issue of the police certificate of character and the Attorney General has stated this is an issue that we will have to take another look at,” Minister Hinkson acknowledged.
But he stressed: “The problem is not one for the prisons or the Minister of Home Affairs or the Government. It is a problem for all of us in this society when these issues are our reality. The prison has done a fine job over the last five years for its programming for the reintegration and reformation of its prisoners including the expansion to those who are on remand.”
Turning his attention to the aftercare committee, the Home Affairs Minister suggested the organisation’s role is critical in any attempt to strengthen the relationship between ex-convicts and the private sector.
“We must look to strengthen the relationship between the private sector and the employers in this country, service organisations, community service organisations, the lions club of Barbados. We have to look to strengthen our links between these types of organisations and business organisations, as well as community service organisations in terms of giving everybody a stake in the rehabilitation and reform of those who have unfortunately come into conflict with the criminal justice system. Because we are all in this together,” Hinkson said.
As part of government’s efforts to address the problem, the administration has extended its rehabilitation programmes to incarcerated persons who are on remand. He added that the recent appointment of five new judges and the hiring of judges to deal exclusively with criminal trials would assist in keeping innocent persons out of the system.
Preventative measures he added could be found in Government push toward education reform along with initiatives like the youth advance scheme, the building blocks initiative, and the national training initiative.
“Prisons can’t be looked at in a vacuum or in a unique situation. All of this is tied up in how we seek to programme and address our societal issues,” said Hinkson. (KS)