Click here to print page

Significant drop in violent incidents at Spanish Town prison

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 19, 2015



MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Minister of National Security Peter Bunting is reporting a significant reduction in violent incidents at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, which he attributes to strong leadership and a number of rehabilitation programmes being undertaken at the facility.


"There's been some very encouraging work that's being done there. Violent incidents have dropped from 15 per week to one per week," Bunting disclosed, while addressing a group of educators who completed a collaborative Master of Education in Teaching and Learning between the Catholic College of Mandeville and Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, at the first of a recent two-day conference at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville.


Bunting said that the approaches at the correctional facility -- formerly known as the St Catherine District Prison -- and the result are demonstration of his belief that there are multiple causal factors that lead people to a life of crime and, as such, the solution must be multifaceted.


Bunting said that the failures or weaknesses at different levels of society need to be addressed by the varying stakeholders as a remedy to the crime statistics now seen in the country.


According to the security minister, educational institutions could move people from a place of concern about violence prevention to one of action.


He said that the level of illiteracy currently seen in correctional institutions is an indicator that that deficiency is a contributing factor to the decisions that result in criminal outcomes.


"The illiteracy rate in our prisons is over 50 per cent. The illiteracy rate nationally, I guess depending on how you measure it, is somewhere around 10 to 12 per cent... First thing that suggests is that if you are illiterate you are about four to five times more likely to end up in the correctional system than somebody who is not," Bunting reasoned.


He said that, while achieving the grades at particular levels is necessary for youth development, education should ultimately serve to develop the whole person.


"I believe that (the role of the university community in society should be) around developing citizens, around socialising people rather than just imparting technical skills and information. I believe the role of the university community is also to provide leaders and to provide leadership in the community," he said.


Bunting said that mentorship by persons such as retirees, teachers or university students could make a difference for a child who exhibits behavioural problems and who may later become a school drop-out or be tempted to engage in serious offences.


He also shared that gradually there should be a shifting of resources from an emphasis on funding tertiary education to invest more at the pre-primary and primary level, as a way of more adequately addressing the nurturing and development of children.


For those currently in correctional institutions, Bunting said, education is an important pillar for transformation.


He said that an 'End Violence Project', now being piloted at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, is a leadership training initiative and a deliberate move to change the culture within lock-ups and reduce the rate of recidivism.


Bunting, who is also a member the parliament for Central Manchester, said that the project targets prisoners serving long sentences, some who had "famous names" and notoriety as previous gang leaders.


"Because they are always there, they determine the culture of the prison much more than the ones who come in for six months and are gone; or a year and are gone. If you can change that group then you can change the culture of the prison," he said, while pointing out that violent crime should not be seen as a law enforcement problem as has "instinctively" been the case over time.


"When you have a spike in murders, the crime rate is spiralling... the first thing people call is for the minister of national security to resign and the second thing they call for is the commissioner of police to resign, which really betrays the superficial understanding they have for real causes. By the time something becomes a statistic... what you are really looking at is an outcome," Bunting argued.