Editorial

Prisoner rehabilitation at work: Mr Carl Rattray would be happy

Friday, June 29, 2018

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Those of our readers who are old enough will remember the late Justice Minister Carl Rattray for the glorious years of prisoner rehabilitation which he ushered in at Jamaican penal institutions in the 1970s

One of the most well-known personalities who came out of that insistence on rehabilitation is Oku Onoura, who became one of the greatest and most sought-after exponents of the artform called dub poetry.

Mr Rattray saw beyond the picture of inmates toiling in the hot sun in places like Wareika Hills and Rockfort in eastern Kingston, believing that, as citizens of Jamaica, they should be prepared to return to society to be productive participants after paying for their crime.

The logic was blameless. The culture at the time was that if a man went to prison he was no longer fit to return to society, and he was stigmatised as a “prison bird” who was to be denied a job, entry to educational institutions, and remain an outcast and pariah in his family and community.

No wonder then that many inmates, unable to cope with the stigmatisation and their inability to be productive, committed crimes hoping to be caught and returned to prison where, at least, they had a 'home'.

The prisoner rehabilitation programmes resulted in a change of name from prisons to correctional centres and greater focus on agricultural programmes, furniture building, skills training, and academic studies allowing inmates to use skills they already had or to learn new ones.

It was inevitable that music would feature prominently and people, like the popular artistes Jah Cure and Vybz Kartel, would later benefit from the ability to hone or practise their skill while in incarceration for the time when they would return to society.

For all these reasons, we are pleased to hear from junior national security minister Rudyard Spencer that the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre (SCACC) is on its way to achieving self-sufficiency in agricultural production.

Mr Spencer told the SCACC 4-H Club Exposition on Tuesday that: “I have witnessed first-hand the organised and successful growth of vegetables such as beetroot, callaloo and bananas as well as poultry. This is an encouraging sign, as it shows that we are not far from our shared objectives of growing what we eat and eating what we grow, and it is good to see our inmates involved in this process.”

According to him, the SCACC currently has inmates who are fully engaged in agro-processing, which consists of the sewing of seeds, transplanting of seedlings, reaping and distribution. The produce is packaged and sent to stores, as well as weighed and sent to the kitchen to be allocated according to the procedures of the facility.

The packaged products are sold at other expositions, such as the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show; donated to other correctional institutions; or used to supplement the inmates' diets, leading inevitably to increased self-sufficiency and cost reduction at the facility.

It is noteworthy that this year's exposition showcased agro-processing products including cashew wine, beetroot wine, peanut cake mix, callaloo and sweet potato lotion, food browning, and the like. The 4-H Club model is now being replicated at the Hill Top and Rio Cobre juvenile correctional centres.

That's rehabilitation at work.

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