Sunday, January 20, 2013


By Earl Bousquet

Every Sunday Darnley Lebourne hosts a program on "Love FM" 103.9 fm coined "The Peoples' Forum" (TPF) between the hours 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm.
This Sunday he speaks to the Bordelais Prison as it marks an anniversary. Among his guests today will be our very our Lawrence Constantine (Centum) who is the education coordinator at the prison.
Below is an article penned by Earl Bousquet on the work which Constantine has spearheaded.
?"I was much pleased with this week's news from Bordelais. No, not the drug bust. Instead, it's the news that prisoners are taking exams - and passing.
First of all, it's good that the prison authorities found a way to harbor and implement the idea of offering and providing educational opportunities to prisoners - or inmates, as the prison chief would most likely prefer us to call them.
Secondly, it's good that those doing the exams are passing.
And thirdly, it's good that the Prison Chief wants to see the program extended throughout the prison.
My only worry is about making it mandatory. I think Commander Herman should step back, take a deep breath and give this one some more thought. Not that he should stand the project at attention in the meantime. Itshould go ahead, full steam ahead at that. But the mandatory part needs more thought, I think.
First of all, making it mandatory would mean that every single person in the prison (or correctional facility) would have to take classes, whether they want to or not. And that includes prisoners on Death Row. Now, how do you insist that a man (or woman) sentenced to hang should learn to read and write or sit a CXC exam? And how do you punish him or her for refusing?
There is also the right of the prisoner or inmate. If on the one hand we say they have rights before the law and under the constitution, how or why should we go about forcing any of them to take educational classes if they do not want to, when this will certainly open the way for them to appeal? (I can well understand that Martinus Francois might not mind if the State was foolish enough to trap itself into such a Human Rights quagmire. But it would be unwise to proceed along that path, I think, given the multitude examples history has thrown up regarding infringements of rights of prisoners or inmates or other incarcerated persons - especially in societies like ours where we still behave and believe that prisoners, inmates and incarcerated persons do not have the same rights as us - or any rights at all.
Bordelais was built for exactly this type of purpose: a correctional facility to rehabilitate prisoners and change the process of imprisonment from only punishment to one that will allow the inmate an opportunity to change for the better if he or she wants. That's the sort of thinking that drove the Labour administration to build Bordelais after prisoners rioted and burned down the Hell Hole called Her Majesty's Prison on Bridge Street soon after the 1997 elections. (Interestingly, the same thing happened after the Labour Party won the 1979 election: fire at the prison.)
There's a whole world of examples of how prison rehabilitation can work. Close to home, in Grenada, the Richmond Hill Prison was transformed into a veritable university jail during the long period of incarceration of Bernard Coard and the other 16 accused of killing Maurice Bishop and the Revolution. Some became lawyers, others gained degrees and most became teachers teaching their less educated fellow inmates the value of education. The have all been freed, but the record is there to prove that they left a positive legacy at the prison after paying for their negative political sins.

There are also international and regional institutions that have accumulated bales of materials regarding conditions in Caribbean prisons and advocating that the traditional prisons go the way of Bordelais. (These include London-based Prison reform International (PRI), which is also active in the Caribbean.)
As with all fundamental changes, ;prison reform will take time to catch on, but Hilary Herman and his colleague at Bordelais are on the right track.
I agree with Commander Herman totally too, when he says that the success of these rehabilitation programs inside the prison will depend totally on the willingness of the Society to give the reformed prisoners or inmates a chance. It's good that they would take time ff in prison to get educated or better educated. But it would be useless if when they are released employers would not be willing to employ them because they are still considered "ex-prisoners" - with all the negatives that come with the term and age-old perceptions of it.
I would strongly suggest that the Bordelais Boss take his thoughts a little further and approach the Chamber of Commerce, the Employers Federation, SLISBA and other Private Sector Agencies to see how best they cam come up with some kind of concordat to open the way to m ake a few examples. The owners of businesses can be expected to offer resistance, or even to be skeptical. But Mr Herman and those who will back him should be prepared and go to the table with the facts and was that will help them make their case. Besides, it's all about willing to give the guys a chance to change. There will be those who'll mess up - that should be expected. But such instances should not be allowed to spoil the chance for others. Besides, the law can say something like, for example, if an ex-prisoner given a special change screws up, it will or may be considered by the court if he or she meddled up on the job by creating a criminal act.
There are wide avenues open for exploration in prison rehabilitation and the Bordelais Boss must be congratulated for taking the bull by the horns. But the mandatory part, I repeat, needs some more thought -- at least on my part, before it is put on the drafting table.
I think it would be better at this point to try to make available an OPDI (One Desktop Per Inmate) initiative. In think the guys and gals would much prefer to be each given an internet address and be told to browse the Net (mandatorily) for a certain amount of hours per day, than to sit with pen and paper at a desk in the lunch room, how many times per day, learning to spell and count.

But in the meantime, I still say: Hooray Herman."
Source: The Voice

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