Gov’t priority is the rehabilitation of prisoners – Min Benn

Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn Friday stated that the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) is currently undergoing a substantial transformation, which is beyond the construction of new correctional facilities, but comprises a fundamental shift in the approach to how inmates are managed and treated.

Minister Benn reiterated that the aim is to shift the service’s focus from simply incarcerating individuals to actively and conscientiously rehabilitating them.

Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, and senior officers in the prison service and Guyana Police Force attend the Church Service

The minister was at the time speaking to media operatives following the opening of an exhibition illustrating the various rehabilitation programmes offered by the GPS, at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) tarmac.

“There is great potential there. If there is time which they have to spend in prison, that is time which should not be wasted, and which should benefit society by working with them to make them better Guyanese. They would reintegrate into society and would not pose a risk to themselves, to their families, community or country,” Minister Benn stated.

A musical rendition during the 40th Thanksgiving celebration at the National Cultural Centre

He is pleased that in recent years there has been development in the GPS’ physical infrastructure and the treatment of prisoners.

Director of Prisons (ag) Nicklon Elliot explained that the Ministry of Labour is also on board to help provide a job market for persons who are released from prison.

The exhibition was officially opened on Friday

Additionally, under the Fresh Start Initiative which began in 2022, Minister Benn and the prisons director presented a toolkit to a recently released inmate to support his reintegration into the workforce.

 “Last year we would have given about eight kits and this year we would have given out about twelve. Our target is about 50 per year but that is based on the discharge rate and level of skills that the person is coming out with,” Elliot explained.

He added that the GPS is also planning to implement an incentive scheme, which will allow individuals who do not meet the criteria, to receive a stipend or a hamper upon their release.

Meanwhile, the two-day exhibition will open from 10 am to 5 pm daily, under the theme: ‘Promoting Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Prisoners.’ Earlier, the GPS held its 40th Thanksgiving service in the NCC auditorium. The 2023 budget allocated some $100 million to facilitate the training of 1,500 inmates and to support the training of prison officers in prison management.