Prison Fellowship Barbados in collaboration with the National HIV/AIDS Commission has launched an initiative aimed at helping former prison inmates gain greater financial independence.
The donation of weed whackers on Tuesday from CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank kicked off the initiative: Give me a chance to Beautify.
In explaining the rationale for the project, president of Prison Fellowship Barbados, Neil Dowden, told reporters: “When these guys come out and they apply for a job, once the employer finds out they have gone to jail that is usually their last day of work.
“And now, with the job situation in the country after Covid-19, it makes it harder for former inmates to get jobs because everyone is fighting for the same job, so as an offender you become the lowest on the totem pole.
“We are trying to nip this in the bud because like everyone else they have families to support and bills to pay. We want them to get a chance to support themselves.”
Behaviour Change Specialist with the National HIV/AIDS Commission, Cecelia Neblett-Murray, said: “We work with community service organisations around the island and we decided to partner with Prison Fellowship Barbados, and as part of that initiative, we are looking at having a community centre in the Carrington Village area, so we reached out to CIBC FirstCaribbean and they were willing to work with us.
“We requested weed whackers to start small businesses. So when young men leave prison, once they come to the centre, they will have some behaviour change modification classes, and we will also help them learn basic computer skills.
“We will also be working with the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme and other small groups so they can learn business skills such as marketing and budgeting.”
Dowden explained how the programme will work: “The Prison Fellowship will supervise the entire operation. If you have a lawn or another area that needs debushing, you can call the Prison Fellowship office, we will come out and payment will go through our office, as the funds will be used to help the former inmates gain some financial stability.”
While he did not have any figures, Dowden said the prison population of 700 men and 23 women is mostly made up of new offenders and that to his knowledge, the recidivism rate was relatively low.
But according to the Government’s crime research unit, more than six out of ten ex-convicts are caught in the criminal justice system’s revolving door.
The Government’s top crime researcher Cheryl Willoughby has declared her worries that an “unforgiving society”, childhood trauma, drug abuse and mental health issues work to keep young people trapped in a life of crime and violence.
Dowden expressed some concern about the current demographic at the prison and the stigma many prisoners and their children bear once they had served their time.
He said: “75 per cent of the prison population are men under 30, young boys coming out of school with no skills and they end up in crime, so we do classes in the prison on two days a week.
“We are hoping to open computer classes, values and behaviour change, how to deal with addiction because it all helps. We are trying to work with young men in there and their children.
“The children are stigmatised by the behaviour of the parents, and as a result, no-one wants to look after them; they are struggling for food and clothing from their grandparents and this should not be.” (DH)