Redemption, rehabilitation of prisoners

There is absolutely no excuse for the commission of criminal acts, but there is great scope for redemption and rehabilitation of prisoners.
Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn recently unveiled major plans to reform the prison system. Benn said that this was aimed at preparing offenders for re-entering society, and these plans would reduce the recidivism rate.
This announcement came just days before news of the graduation of the convicted murderer, Orwain Sandy. Sandy, a former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Captain, was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the possibility of parole after serving 20 years, after he admitted to shooting his reputed wife, Reona Payne to death on March 31, 2018. He has since appealed his sentence.
His graduation from the University of Guyana with a Diploma in General Psychology shows that unlike many other prisoners, he is using his incarceration to bring about positive change in his life. This is the kind of potential and positive influence that prison officials should tap into as part of their programme to redeem and rehabilitate prisoners.
Indeed, there are many factors behind crime, but we agree there is importance in reducing recidivism.
Most young people who have been inculcated with a moral compass and consequently adhere to discipline would adjust accordingly, but there are some youths who have no guiding force or role model pointing them in the right direction. This group finds it preferable to pick up a weapon and try to extract quick riches from the unwary, even if they have to kill to obtain the spoils of their forays into criminality.
They subsequently most often become hardened criminals who have no compunction for their actions, and often display no compassion for their victims, indiscriminately depriving them of their property, money and lives without thinking of the devastation they wreak on the families, especially vulnerable dependents such as elderly parents and children.
Having perfected the art of escape after the execution of their crimes, oftentimes when they are caught after a long career of theft and murder, they are treated as ‘first-time offenders’, figuratively rapped on the knuckles by bleeding hearts of some judicial officials and with minimum punishment.
Incarceration, especially with hard labour, is meant to act as a deterrent to engagement in criminal activities in civil societies, and this should ideally work concurrently with rehabilitation, to reintegrate prisoners into families, communities, and the society at large. It is the general consensus that prisoners should be treated humanely. They were caught committing their crimes, while many criminals have been getting away without discovery.
During his tenure, retired Director of Prisons, Dale Erskine created synergies to make the prison system more aligned to rehabilitation, rather than punishment. He incorporated new programmes in the prison system to create a dynamic in which prison was no longer somewhere merely to lock away people found guilty of aberrant behaviour, but where the inmates could be guided, directed, and encouraged to change their thinking and attitude into more positive, achievement-oriented directions. That change was a work in progress throughout Erskine’s tenure, as initially Officer-in-Charge of the Georgetown Prison, and then Director of Prisons.
The changes wrought by the forward, humanistic thinking of Erskine were multi-faceted and transformational.
One of the programmes he set in motion was the identification and employment of a skilled bank of prisoners who were at least risk of escaping or engaging in additional criminal activities.
The prisoners were thus enabled to earn an income, part of which provided for their own needs and the needs of relatives, including young children left defenceless as their mothers struggle to take care of their prerequisites for survival. Some saved for their own upkeep upon their release, because the world knows that for a person with a prison record, finding employment is a difficult feat.
However, there are those who are considered beyond human redemption, because they have become so hardened in their hearts that opportunities for atonement go abegging. In those cases, protective services have to be vigilant that those persons are completely assured of their restored sense of right and wrong, and their intention to adhere to the laws of the land.