A NEW approach to prison reform implemented at Her Majesty’s Prisons is already producing positive results as violence against staff by inmates “has never been lower”, Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage said.
Dr Nottage said the changes have also resulted in a decrease in the rate of recidivism and a decrease in the rate of escapes, while staff retention has been bolstered by the new policy.
“In recent times the prison has undergone a philosophical shift that emphasises strict security, not in the context of harsh treatment, poor conditions and dehumanisation, but rather strict security in an atmosphere of empowerment, upliftment, broad-based opportunity, individual responsibility and institution-wide accountability. We believe this formula is working,” Dr Nottage said.
“We are committed to bringing about genuine prison reform. We cannot be content with just warehousing inmates and operating a revolving door.”
Dr Nottage said the government is committed to reforming Her Majesty’s Prisons as “we are firmly of the view that a penal system that focuses on correction and rehabilitation will contribute to a safer and more secure country.”
He said while there is still a “long way to go” in achieving the operation of a safe, secure prison characterised by discipline and orderliness, in which compassion and opportunity signal the way forward, “the facility has come a long way.”
Dr Nottage said: “The rehabilitation thrust has been ongoing and wide in scope (and) encompasses inmate classification (to ensure that inmates of a similar risk and inclinations are housed together); proper sentence planning; a wide range of technical, vocational and academic programmes; attitude adjustment and behaviour modification programmes; a day release work programme as well as faith-based initiatives.”
He said the unveiling of the new baseball facility constructed on the grounds of the Prison provided yet another avenue for “the wholesome engagement of inmates with fellow inmates and with the general community.”
Built to Major League Baseball standards, the diamond is the first phase of a comprehensive plan set to result in the construction of a Mini Sporting Complex that will also include facilities for track and field, basketball, tennis, and “many of the major sporting activities”, he said.
Superintendent of Prisons, Patrick Wright, said while the facility will retain its punitive side, the construction of the sporting complex will help advance its correctional side and allow for greater interaction between the prison, its staff and inmates, and members of the general public.
“For 70 years society has been locked out, or Her Majesty’s Prison has been viewed in such a way, that the re-integration of our inmates into society has not achieved the kind of results that we would have wanted, because our former inmates would have been viewed as outcasts and that is one of the reasons I believe recidivism is so high,” Mr Wright said.
“This move, and some of the others we have on the drawing board, will allow us to correct that. It allows us to foster and develop new relationships between the prison and society, particularly families,” he said.
Superintendent Wright said children in eastern New Providence, staff and inmates will benefit “tremendously” from the construction of the baseball facility and ultimately the sporting complex.
“There are a number of benefits to the construction of the sporting complex. One, it will provide more access to greater, structural recreation based on international standards and best practices; secondly, it will help to further instil discipline, such as the kind that is associated with the various sports such as baseball, basketball, tennis and track and field into our inmates, and it will provide recreation and training for our staff.
“It will also allow us, as the third arm of the national security network of our country, to play a role in reducing crime and criminality in the country,” he said.