Warders to impart skills training to inmates

BY PENDA HONEYGHAN Career & Education writer honeyghanp@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 26, 2017

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AS the prison system inches closer towards a rehabilitative approach to justice, the Ministry of National Security, through the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), in partnership with HEART Trust/NTA’s Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI) will train 32 correctional officers in various skills which they will impart to inmates across the country.

The programme, a train-the-trainer type, was announced at a special opening ceremony at the VDTI campus in St Andrew by Minister of state in the Ministry of National Security, Pearnel Charles Jr last Monday. It will encompass additional development of correctional officers who were previously trained and certified up to level three in National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica welding, general construction, carpentry, tailoring, electrical installation, cosmetology and other areas.

While acknowledging that educational/vocational rehabilitation might not be able to cure inmates of their offending behaviours, the minister described the two-year partnership between the ministry and HEART as a holistic approach to addressing many of the problems plaguing the nation.

"It is an established fact that education is a critical factor in transforming lives, communities and countries. Prisoners and wards should be included in our vision for an educated and productive society. [Therefore] effective and targeted correctional educational programmes should form an important part of the rehabilitation efforts in our institutions. The DCS values acknowledge education as a tool for fixing many of the problems that plague our institutions — especially behavioural — and more importantly, our society," the minister reasoned.

He noted that with appropriate training, released offenders with exposure to certified trainers and standards-based training will be properly rehabilitated and be able to effectively use the knowledge and skills acquired to find and/or create jobs, become productive citizens, and contribute to the development of their families and communities.

Charles Jr was not the only one with the belief that these training programmes could radically change inmates. At least one correctional officer set to participate in the second phase of training, having previously completed a diploma in web designing through Garmex, Charlane Williams, described the programme as "God’s gift to inmates".

"I am certainly very grateful to be a part of this cohort of officers to be trained, because now I am adept at a specialty area that is very applicable today. But I am even more heartened to see how eager the inmates here are when they know that they have classes. Previously, many of them were unemployed and this was partly because they were unemployable, and this programme is giving them an opportunity to change that," said the officer who is assigned to Fort Augusta.

She argued that the courses offered to inmates have not only allowed them to acquire a skill, but have rendered them generally less aggressive as well. She noted too, that the facility was more likely to be incident free on days that classes were in session.

"It is a known fact, and the Jamaican proverb could easily be applied, the devil finds work for idle hands. I am happy that this initiative is being continued because the idle hands will be less. Inmates are now productively engaged and it is my hope that this project receives greater investments so that the programme can be expanded, that more resources will be invested to ensure the best-quality service is offered," Williams reasoned.

Since the initial introduction of the programme following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the HEART Trust/NTA and the Department of Correctional Services in 2015, Senior Director Workforce Development and Employment Denworth Finnikin said that 173 inmates across the island have participated in several specialty areas including mixology, business, furniture and life skills.

Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Joyce Stone acknowledged that the partnership with HEART has proven effective in completing a critical function of the prison system. which is to provide a quality rehabilitation framework from which offenders can benefit so that when they are released they are armed with skill sets that will make it easy for them to transition to society almost seamlessly.




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