Govt alone with its guns cannot reduce crime – Pastor
…rehabilitation programmes must be set up for ex-offenders
“Government alone, with all their guns, vehicles and professionals, cannot reduce crime and recidivism; it takes the unmatched volunteerism and goodwill of the local faith-based authorities, and the resources of Government and donor agencies like the EU (European Union) and the Private Sector, to actualise the needed reduction in crime”.
These were the sentiments of Pastor Wendell Jeffrey, who is facilitating the 10th European Development Forum (EDF) on Crime and Violence Prevention and Social Development Project, being held with the intent of providing trainers with information to help ex-offenders in prison.
The Regional workshop, dubbed ‘Train-the-Trainers’, will focus on Restorative Justice under the ‘Sycamore Tree Project’ being held at the Grand Coast Hotel at Le Ressouvenir, East Coast Demerara.
According to Jeffrey, the training will be geared towards training persons who happen to be ex-offenders, and the intent is to conduct rehabilitation programmes with prisoners.
He pointed out, “I have long argued that significant and precipitous decline in crime across the Caribbean states will only come when there is a formal marrying of governmental and corporate funding, coupled with the involvement of faith-based, private sector and civic-minded organisations”.
Through this collaboration, Jeffrey said, a post-release rehabilitation programme can be developed, as the need for an ex-offender rehabilitation programme across the Caribbean remains evident.
According to him, the formal facilities should be a place “where ex-offenders can participate in programmes when they are released from prison”.
The facilitator noted that those institutions would need to be fully funded and managed for the sole purpose of transitioning individuals back into the society.
He pointed to the grave need for such a programme in Guyana, especially since only a few Caribbean countries currently have such provisions, and have earmarked monies for the intended purposes.
This much needed programme is being kicked off now, Jeffrey said, with the launch of the Train-the-Trainers workshop, which will allow for over 60 persons to be equipped with knowledge in the area of prison rehabilitation.
“The programme will build from a comprehension of what is termed restorative justice to the actual engagement of ex-offenders and recovering addicts in practical applications,” he explained.
Among the areas which will be discussed with prisoners are how their criminal behaviour would affect their victims, as well as the genesis of criminal behaviours of perpetrators.
Jeffrey’s statements were endorsed by the Head of the European Union Delegation to Guyana and Suriname, Jerney Videtic, who said that increased punishment will not be effective in lowering the crime rate.
According to him, “The assumption that increasing punishment will reduce crime can be applied to three categories of perspective offenders. The first category being criminals who believe they will be apprehended, the second being those who believe they will not be caught, and the third being delinquents who believe they might be arrested; so increasing penalty will only have an impact upon those who believe they might get caught”.
It is because of this that the diplomat noted that immediate sanctions should be imposed on perpetrators, rather than giving them lengthy stays in the prisons.
The EU is providing funding for the workshop, which will last for just about five days.
The Sycamore Tree Project is an in-prison restorative justice programme which seeks to bring together unrelated victims and offenders to discuss crime and its impact. It takes its name from the story of Zacchaeus and his encounter with Jesus in the Bible.
A senior member of the organizing team related that they aspire to reach the prisons and begin their mission by January.