Government should seek help in deportee issue To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
October 26, 2001

After reading Patrick Denny's news article, "US wants to offload 150 more deportees," and a letter from a Concerned Guyanese who just completed time in prison, I could not help wondering whether the United States Government could, in any way, assist the Guyana Government in resettling the deportees.

Given the likelihood of most of them being unable to blend into the Guyanese society with employable skills, it is not illogical to assume a life of crime may be all they may resort to. If caught and sentenced in Guyana, the cycle of criminality may not end after their release, it may be back to the same old routine. What a nightmare for the local authorities!

In the United States, many inmates are offered an opportunity to take up studies leading to college degrees or technical trade skills, but few take advantage of the offer. Is it not possible that the US Government could help the Guyana Government launch an inmate education programme, leading to specialized certificates and diplomas in various technical and business vocations?

The letter by the Concerned Guyanese, "Magistrates should give more thought to their sentences," ably bears out the need for a serious approach to stop a potentially explosive situation from happening, by giving the deportees and other inmates now serving time, a second, perhaps third chance in life to make a clean start over.

Sentences can then be restructured to work in conjunction with those charged with misdemeanours carrying reasonably long jail time to make a choice of either serving the full time or having their time reduced if they participate in the educational programmes. Even those jailed for felonies can be offered similar opportunities.

Upon release, they will be on probation for that amount of time remaining in their original sentence and report to the Ministry of Labour every week during probation. Their employer must be made to participate by furnishing on the job performance reports for these special hires. Any violation of probation may result in completing the remaining time of the sentence plus the time allotted for the new infraction.

The whole focus is not so much punitive, but rehabilitative and preventive. If not, Guyana is headed for a serious social problem that can destroy the country from within.

I do not agree with any stigmatization of the deportees by publicising their pictures and or raw personal data, but believe Government should make arrangements for them to meet with officials of the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Home Affairs immediately after their arrival.

As for the exact nature of the US Government's assistance, this does not necessarily have to be exclusively financial, but it also can be in the form of technical assistance, with US training personnel sent to conduct training sessions plus any small equipment for skills development in both business and trade areas. Literature can be thrown in for added support.

If the American Government truly cares about encouraging democracy in its so-called 'backyard', and especially cherishes its warm relations with Guyana, it has to do more than just arbitrarily dump deportees without due consideration of the impact violent crimes by non-rehabilitated former, and sometimes seasoned and dangerous, inmates can have on social, economic and political stability.

I appeal to the Guyana Government not to be distracted by the influx of three hundred and twenty-seven deportees, (and who knows how many more are yet to come?) but use the willingness to cooperate to ask for help now, rather than later, when it may be too late.
Emile Mervin, Brooklyn, New York