British help to boost prison rehabilitation scheme By Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
March 16, 2007

Related Links: Articles on prison
Letters Menu Archival Menu

“PRISON is not just about security; it is about creating an environment which would help break the cycle of criminality so that people who are repeat offenders will stop and return to normal lives when they leave prison, in particular the young first time offenders.”

Additionally, it is well recognized that approaches to crime and security now need to be holistic, and prisons are no exception to that principle, said British High Commissioner, Mr. Fraser Wheeler, yesterday.

He made the observations in remarks prior to handing over a cheque for 5,000 pounds sterling, a significant boost, to Director of Prisons Dale Erskine at the High Commission’s Main Street, Georgetown office.

Accompanying Erskine, who described the contribution as “significant and appropriate”, were Staff and Prisoners Welfare Officer/Chaplain, Reverend Faye Clarke; Officer in Charge, New Amsterdam Prisons, Richard Bryan; Literacy Officer, Nicklon Elliot; Officer Cadet K. Pilgrim; and Woman/Prison Officers 11, June-Ann Frank and Denise Harry.

The money represents the British Government’s assistance towards expanding the rehabilitation programme for prisoners being executed by the Guyana Prison Service.

Under the rehabilitative project, classroom environments will be created where prisoners will be taught basic literacy and numeracy, theory in vocational skills, HIV/AIDS behavioural change programmes, psychology modules and discussions/programmes on social, hygiene, moral and spiritual development.

And, it is expected that the creation of the classroom environment will have a positive influence on prisoners' learning capabilities and retrain them to lead meaningful and law abiding lives.

Mr. Wheeler stressed the need to create an environment in which prisoners can acquire skills while incarcerated and which they can subsequently use in legitimate work upon release.

“So it’s not about security, it’s about creating an environment in which those inmates when they leave can increase the chances of getting jobs and leading normal lives.

“This is a contribution towards breaking that cycle of repeat offending and ensure, in particular, the young people get a second chance,” he said.

According to the British envoy, he was very keen recently to discuss such issues with Mr. Erskine and was open to proposals along those lines, adding that the GPS came up with “some very good projects” which the British Government is happy to fund.

He reminded of the longstanding relationship the commission has had with the prison service, which has a critical role in dealing with crime security in Guyana.

The significance and appropriate contribution will help in developing a platform on which to build a rehabilitative regime that will provide prisoners with the sort of assistance to make them better persons, Erskine responded.

The head of the Prison Service was also in agreement with Wheeler’s concept of a holistic approach to crime security, which he added, is a community problem with the prisons being there to protect the community.

He reminded that the prisoner will some day return to society and it will then be the role of the community to pick up from where the prisons have left off.

Erskine said too, the monetary assistance will aid in creating a better and secure environment in which the prisons can provide prisoners with the type of skill that that will make him or her marketable, on leaving the prison.

Noting that the GPS receives a subvention from the government, he said this assistance from the British Government will go a long way in the GPS’s quest towards changing the platform and delivery of service within the scope of the prison system.

Erskine explained that the aim is to impact on a greater number of prisoners at the targeted prisons and to this end monies will be used to acquire more tools, other equipment along with screens and blackboards.

Noting that a space constraint already exists, he said the additional screens and blackboards will allow for more classrooms to be set up.

In addition, at the Georgetown Prison, a barbering programme will be conducted since it was recognised that such a skill is easy to acquire and prisoners can either be self-employed or gain employment easily if they are proficient.

A reputable external barbering school/business will be approached to test the proficiency of the inmates and award certificates in conjunction with the prison service.

A portion of the funds will be used too to renovate and re-equip a trade shop at the Mazaruni Prison which, due to its deplorable condition, has not been operable for several years.

The plan also includes establishing a joinery/craft shop at the prison there to produce quality furniture and craft items that can be sold in Bartica and elsewhere.

And, over at the New Amsterdam Prison where female prisoners are housed, monies will be provided for the female inmates to be trained as cosmetologists under the supervision of trained prison officers, Erskine said.

The programme, which would be monitored by external professional facilitators, is considered very instrumental as it allows female prisoners to easily acquire a skill while simultaneously practice and earn money while they work in the Prisons' cosmetology business.