Min Benn calls for more focus on inmates’ rehabilitation

─ as two-day Prison Officers’ Conference opens

Senior Prison Officers are being urged to place more effort on the rehabilitation of inmates, and not just keeping them locked away.

This call was made by Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, at the Guyana Prison Service’s (GPS) Senior Officers’ Conference.

Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn (center) along with Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Mae Toussaint Jr. Thomas, Director of Prisons (ag) Nicklon Elliot, Chief of Staff Brigadier Godfrey Bess, Commissioner of Police (ag) Nigel Hoppie, Chief Fire Officer (ag) Gregory Wickham and other Senior Officers of the Prison Service

Minister Benn said government is investing heavily in the prison system to reduce recidivism. To this end, government is reconstructing the Lusignan prison, in addition to providing the necessary training for inmates and prison officers.

“If we want to reduce recidivism rate at entry or overall, 13 per cent overall and nine per cent for new intakes, we have to improve the conditions. We cannot reform them unless we improve their conditions. We cannot make things better if we do not get them doing useful, gainful activities,” Minister Benn stated.

Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn handing over certificates to prison officers

“We have talked about a fresh start for the prisoners that we will train and identify those who are suitable, that when they come out the prison, through the CSSP project, we will be giving people tools to go out so they can earn an income and support their families and support themselves at least,” he further added.

He said the prisons and the 1,889 prisoners are a reflection of the society, and that there must be a continuous improvement approach to the problem.

“When we see a prisoner, man or woman and when we consider the bad things they may have done, those crimes are not simply their crimes, those are our crimes. We have to find a way to move along to the point where we reduce these instances of violence, which result in people being incarcerated in these very large numbers.”

Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn handing over certificates to prison officers

Minister Benn said there must also be some sort of self-reform by prison officers to better deal with prisoners. Introspection and retrospection by prison officers can go a far way in reforming inmates which can yield a lot of positive results, he stressed.

“So, we have to reform ourselves, review the way we see these things, look at these things with new eyes and even where we ourselves would have had personal failings in relation to the issuance to them, take a step back and review how we respond to situations,” the Minister said.

Director of Prisons (ag) Nicklon Elliot said despite the challenges faced by the GPS in 2021, they were able to make significant strides in building the capacity of inmates and prison officers. The director said 861 inmates received training in various fields, while 480 prison officers were trained in several programmes.

“This conference will enable us, members of the directorate to make the appropriate decisions to address the challenges we faced in 2021, as we seek to further improve the image of the Guyana Prison Service,” he said.

Several prison officers also received certificates for being outstanding in the field of prison management at the opening of the conference.

The two-day Conference is being held under the theme ‘Working towards improving the image of the Guyana Prison Service.”

Present at the conference were Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mae Toussaint Jr. Thomas, Chief -of -Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Godfrey Bess, Commissioner of Police (ag) Nigel Hoppie, Chief Fire Officer (ag) Gregory Wickham and National Security Advisor to the President, Gerry Gouveia.

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