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Trinidad and Tobago

Wilson: Remand inmates coming out worse than before

Commissioner of Prisons Gerard Wilson.
Commissioner of Prisons Gerard Wilson.

PRISONS Commissioner Gerard Wilson says there need to be serious conversations about improving the remand facility.

"We don't even have space to hold inmates, so far less to have an area where we can really conduct programmes," he said.

This was necessary, he said, "because if we don't educate these persons, if we don't look at their hearts and minds, then we are just spinning top in mud.

"It is time we stop running behind crime and start running behind the causes of crime."

He said this would assist the police in being more strategic and finding other ways to curb crime.

He was speaking on Sunday night at the I Support Our Service (ISOS) TT Prison Service Launch Programme at the Commissioner of Prisons' Residence, Golden Grove, Arouca.

He said normally programming is done for convicted prisoners but in TT there was the unique situation where individuals are on remand for years.

"So that if a person passes through the remand for ten to 14 years without programming, when they leave the system they are worse than before."

Wilson said recidivism rates are at times talked about and calculated.

"What are we really calculating? Because if you come into the system as a drug addict, but we don't have drug-treatment programmes, then all we have really is a revolving door – ­you come out and you come back. So it is important for us that as we sit together as we launch this (ISOS) programme and have some serious conversations with regard to what we do with the remand facility."

He said he has the opportunity to sit and speak with "these so-called gang leaders" and people who would have had a tough life in depressed areas.

"When I listen to people who have this dream about the house and the car and the white picket fence and the children, when you talk to (inmates) on a one-on-one they don't have that dream. They don't. They don't have time to have that dream.

"When you have young men, 17 and 18, telling you that age 21 and 22 for them is old age, they don't want to live, what can you do to scare them? They want to die.

"So telling them you are going to come for them or you going to kill them – it doesn't matter. That's what they want.

"So if we don't start getting into the hearts and minds of these inmates then we would continue to fail."

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