By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Archdiocesan Catholic Church Men’s Association in collaboration with the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services yesterday launched the “HOPE” programme aimed at rehabilitating inmates by providing them with mentorship, legal aid and jobs during and after their release from prison.
At a ceremony at the BDCS on Thursday, National Security Minister Marvin Dames said the “Helping Our People Excel” programme is aimed at reducing the high rate of recidivism as well as combat crime.
The programme will target persons on remand or first-time offenders with non-violent crimes. There are nearly 300 persons on remand, some inmates are as young 14.
“These programmes would reduce the degree of recidivism and would counteract the revolving door syndrome. The Department of Correctional Services has to play a critical role in our overall efforts in crime reduction,” Mr Dames said.
“We seek to improve the effectiveness of correctional services and improve our capacity for rehabilitation and reintegration for offenders. We understand the need to unify the criminal justice system in order to improve its efficiency as well as the prison service. The objective is to protect the innocent, to deter criminals and to rehabilitate offenders. We have to redirect the minds of the inmates in preparation for their release and re-entry. “The government supports this bold initiative which is geared to assist young men by developing counselling and religious programmes that provide mentorship among other things.”
Commissioner of Corrections Patrick Wright said a change in the prison means a change in the country.
“We will continue to partner with the church for the rehabilitation of all inmates for a safer Bahamas. We will also ensure the living conditions for the inmates are improved as well as programmes for the inmates to assist with rehabilitation of all inmates in our care. We recognise that change in the correction facility means a change in the country and if the Bahamas is going to see a reduced recidivism rate each of us has to play important roles,” he said.
ACCMA President Edwin Thompson said he hopes the programme can grow through the years and assist as many persons at finding a “new and better” life.
“We have developed an application form for the inmates to fill out and the correctional officers will give it to those they feel are ready for the programme,” he said.
“We will review it and those who qualify will come into the programme. We will have mentors and also, we will have an officer who will guide them and keep them away from crime. We will help first with legal aid and then once they get their freedom then we will assist them while they are searching for a job. We will be calling upon corporate Bahamas to assist these young men with finding a job. In the meantime, we want them to get reunited with their church, and reconnect with their family. We will offer them a stipend until they find this job as well.”