Reformation through rehabilitation & reintegration

Reducing reoffending prisoners is the aim of prisons around the world, though reformation through rehabilitation and reintegration is one of the most difficult and challenging tasks for any correctional service.
Here, in Guyana, Director of Prisons, Nicklon Elliot, on Tuesday explained that “the prison has an obligation and mandate to provide prisoners with skills to facilitate their reintegration into society”, while adding that “the prisons’ task is to help the inmates realise their mistakes and become better individuals.”
To quote the prisons’ director: “The various programmes are just another phase to assist and strengthen the rehabilitation of inmates that are currently incarcerated. The programmes also signify the important step that the Prison Service is taking to fully rehabilitate the inmates.”
We must commend the Prison Service for the work done with the 72 inmates housed at the Timehri Prison, who completed a three-month training course – information technology, welding literacy, culinary art, wellness and success and electrical installation – aimed at preparing them for employment upon their release from incarceration.
As this newspaper has said before, there is absolutely no excuse for the commission of criminal acts, but there is great scope for redemption and rehabilitation of 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 slapped 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.
One of the programmes that the Guyana Prison Service has is 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 are 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.
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.
According to the GPS, in 2022, 1,400 inmates were trained in block making, basic agriculture, and culinary arts. This is commendable of the GPS, as these individuals can provide for themselves after they are released.