Ex-convicts are to be given a structured opportunity to start-up businesses after they have served their time, Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde has told Parliament.
The Ministry is to roll out a post-prison programme – the Youth Prison Programme, Forde announced today during debate on the Appropriation Bill in the House of Assembly.
He said: “Our department started a new programme which will be rolled out over the next couple of weeks. [It] is called the youth prison fellowship programme.
“The [Youth] Entrepreneurship Scheme will work with the prison.
“They have a programme up there which deals with inmates while they are incarcerated but there is nothing when they come on the outside so it is like dropping or cutting off the umbilical cord prematurely.”
The Minister explained how they intend to go about executing the programme.
“We will partner with the Prison Association, the Prison Fellowship and we will ensure that those young people will have a chance to have a commercial business space so that they can become entrepreneurs in their own right that they can support themselves and their families,” Forde said.
“ It goes back to the old adage: ‘the devil finds work for idle hands to do.’”
The Christ Church West Central MP said that figures showed that most inmates become re-offenders.
Forde told the House: “The figures are startling to say the least. Sixty per cent of prisoners and if we are talking about 1,000, that’s 600. At least 20 per cent recommitted to prison – these numbers should be at the door front of the concerns of every single body in this room.”
He continued: “It means the level of recidivism is very high.
“When they go looking for a job and the employer sees that they are an ex-convict there is a barrier there.
“We are saying as a ministry and as a good Government to respond to this concern that we will marry our entrepreneurship department.
“I spent some time up there (HMP Dodds) the other day speaking at a graduation class and when I saw the talent that those youngsters brought out in terms of the painting the clothing, some who were involved in the cultural aspects of it.
“Some were involved in mechanics and agriculture. If you hear the stories of these young men… all they want is an opportunity and a chance and the one thing they will have this opportunity with in society is if we make them small business men… working along with the Trust Loan that will seek to change the way that we deal with the ordinary folk in this country.”