Prison authorities seeing positive changes from sex offenders programme
By Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
June 25, 2003

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Four months after the launch of the Sex Offenders programme at the Camp Street Jail in Georgetown, prison authorities have begun to see positive changes in the attitudes of those accused of sex crimes.

Prison authorities gave the go ahead in February for the start of a Sex Offenders programme, in an effort to bring inmates to a point of accountability, where they recognise that they need to develop more acceptable social behaviour.

“It is to confront them with the realities of the pain they have caused to their victims, the families of those victims, their own families...dispelling cultural myths in the areas of sexual responsibilities,” says Reverend Fay Clarke, one of the facilitators of the programme.

Stabroek News understands that there is an increase in sex crimes across the country and most of the offenders are incarcerated at the Georgetown penitentiary. Information suggests that most of the people convicted of sex crimes are middle-aged men.

There are about 40 prisoners engaged in the programme, but most are on remand pending trial. Statistics collected over the past year show that at least 20 persons have been convicted of rape, while about ten might currently be in Jail for incest.

These figures, one source revealed, reflect that more persons are being convicted for sex crimes, especially from the West Demerara District.

This newspaper visited the city Jail on Thursday, where Rev. Clarke spoke about the purpose of the rehabilitative programme and some of the successes since it was launched.

The sessions attract men who have been convicted or charged with sex related crimes, as well as those who are pursuing ministerial studies.

According to Rev. Clarke, the programme was conceptualised some two and a half years ago, but because there were some problems attracting a particular facilitator, it did not come on board until this year.

There are several persons who lend their expertise to changing the lives of the men, including religious ministers, persons with a legal background and a clinical psychologist.

“There is a cultural mindset that if a woman says, ‘No’ she means ‘Yes’. They must understand that ‘No’ means ‘No’ it is all about men honouring rejection by women, and many times you find that people who are violated or molested become molesters. They [inmates] have to learn to break the cycle,” the minister stated emphatically.

According to Rev. Clarke, there are four aspects to the programme - the physiological, psychological, social and spiritual. In the end, Rev. Clarke said, the individual had to recognise that they can develop mental and spiritual discipline to cope with urges that might be considered uncontrollable.

“The issue is accepting responsibility for their actions, to confront and acknowledge their unacceptable behaviour, acknowledge the need to develop the disciplines necessary to conforming to acceptable behaviour, address issues within their own lives which may have contributed to their unacceptable behaviour and recognise the ongoing effort necessary to avoid re-offending in the same manner,” she said.

The topics covered under the programme include: rape - a crime of violence; the psychology of sexual offenders; control, subjection and domination - features of deviant behaviour; society’s stigmatizing of sex offenders; the predator, the victim and the pain of sex offences; misplaced rage of the sex offenders; breaking generation traits of deviant behaviour; confronting to correct unacceptable behaviour; and application of religious principles to reinforce reform.

Figures coming out of Help and Shelter show that the organisation has dealt with rapists as young as 12 years old. Based on the cases reported to the organisation, most of the persons who commit rape are between the ages of 12 and 30 years.

Since 1998, the organisation has recorded more than 127 cases of rape, with most of the victims being between the ages of nine and 14 years old. Up to the end of last month, there were 12 reported cases and all the victims were younger than 20 years.

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