With recidivism rates at Her Majesty’s Prisons Dodds, St Philip at 68 per cent, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson has said that the island’s prison system is in need of reform.
Hinkson was the featured speaker at the closing ceremony of the Incident Command System Workshop hosted by the Regional Security System and the Barbados Prison Service when he noted that “all hands have to be on deck” to reduce the prison’s recidivism rates.
He stressed that the responsibility lay not only on Government but also on law enforcement and the civil society to “cut down our prison population”. Hinkson reiterated that offenders needed to be taught that conflict and violence were not the solutions.
With the island recording nine murders for the year, the Minister of Home Affairs pinpointed the lack of involvement from civil society, especially the church. He noted that 80 per cent of church congregation on Sunday’s was females with low attendance from males.
“Studies show that the vast majority of prisoners have not been in the church in the last two years leading up to their prison sentence. Therefore, the church has a leading role to play in this whole enterprise itself,” said the Minister, while also calling for the church to be more involved in “inculcating spiritualism” into the people of the nation.
The Minister of Home Affairs said the criminal acts of repeat offenders were often linked to their childhood.
“A fifteen or sixteen-year-old or someone in their early twenties doesn’t take up a gun or knife just so. It is from an early age in many cases that whatever traits that are negative or adversarial develop in an individual.
“I believe the psychiatrists tell you your character is formed by the time you are seven, therefore community and everybody – schools, churches – have to come into play,” he stressed.
He contended that rehabilitation programmes were the key to reducing the recidivism rate at HMP Dodds. While he could not expand on how his Ministry sought to reduce that rate, Hinkson indicated that the Ministry of Home Affairs sought to improve the institution’s rehabilitation programme and make the inmates productive, employable individuals when they re-entered society.
“We can’t just let out prisoners with no skills and expect that they are going to be able to fit in perfectly in society. They have to be able to find a job, they have to be able to be useful citizens and cut down on the chances of them getting into trouble and conflict with the criminal justice system again.
“We know that those who are generally in prison are repeat offenders,” said Hinkson, who added “It is the duty of society to try to rehabilitate these persons to allow them the best opportunity in terms of their reintegration into society when they come out of prison. If not, we are failing an aspect of our society”.
During this morning’s session members of the prison service as well as a number of inmates engaged in a simulation exercise dealing with the possibility of the prison’s bus that transports prisoners to and from court being involved in an accident that led to a mass casualty situation.