A large prison population and the recurring problem of recidivism continue to be a major ‘headache’ for Government.
And, Home Affairs Minister, Adriel Brathwaite has given notice that his administration will continue to explore all avenues to tackle this problem including the soon to be introduced Drug Treatment Court (DTC). The Court will aid with incarceration and recidivism for non-violent, particularly drug involved offenders.
His remarks came last Saturday night as he addressed the Barbados Prison Service’s Annual Awards Ceremony and Dinner at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
The Minister told attendees that: “Every effort must be made to reduce the number of persons incarcerated, since this could have a negative impact on the quality of services that Government is able to offer under the circumstances.
“With this number increasing many countries including Barbados, have had to reconsider their incarceration policies and move towards alternative interventions for non-violent, particularly drug-involved offenders. Later this year, Barbados will be introducing the Drug Treatment Court as one of the ways to deal with the issue of incarceration and recidivism. It is anticipated that this court will effectively assist in reducing crime and the cost of incarceration and treat the needs of those drug dependent offenders who require treatment interventions and not necessarily incarceration to address their particular problems,” he stated.
Mr. Brathwaite pointed out that recent figures showed that males continued to outnumber females in terms of criminal activity and he found this trend “deeply unsettling”.
“The figures for October 2012 showed that the average offender population was 1,092 (1,053 males and 39 females). The highest daily population was 1,112 (1,070 males and 42 females). The lowest daily population was 1,076 (1,039 males and 37 females). The average number on remand was 496 (483 males and 13 females). For November 2012, the average offender population was 1,073 (1,034 males and 39 females). The highest daily population was 1,089 (1,047 males and 42 females). The lowest daily population was 1,049 (1,012 males and 37 females). The average number on remand was 518 (505 males and 13 females).
“With respect to December 2012, the average offender population was 1,045 (1,013 males and 32 females). The highest daily population was 1,150 (1,112 males and 38 females). The lowest daily population was 1,033 (1,002 males and 31 females). The average number on remand was 457 (446 males and 11 females). During January this year, the average offender population was 1,040 (1,009 males and 31 females). The highest daily population was 1,052 offenders (1,020 males and 32 females). The lowest daily population was 1,022 offenders (993 males and 29 females). The average number on remand was 459 (449 males and 10 females),” he revealed.
Mr. Brathwaite, praised the Barbados Prison Service for its hard work and dedication, inspite of the current financial constraints that were putting pressure on the range of initiatives and activities which could be pursued. He added that with respect to the reform and rehabilitative programmes of the prison, a decision was made to concentrate on the provision of education, vocational training, and life skills to build the capacity of prisoners which would enable them to live as law abiding citizens following their release.
He also mentioned the Prison Farm Project and lauded the initiative as a way of significantly reducing the cost of providing food for inmates as well as the “opportunity for inmates to acquire a variety of skills and knowledge in the area of crop and animal production”. He said this know-how would increase the capacity of inmates to gain employment once reintegrated into society.
Additionally, the Minister reassured prison officers that continued emphasis would be placed on strengthening the management and operations of the prison through the provision of specialised training for prison staff. He said this would improve the welfare and living conditions of prisoners and strengthen the capacity of the prison services to respond to the needs of vulnerable groups within the prison population, including women and offenders with mental health care needs and drug abuse problems.