Prisoners are more than the crimes they commit
The rate of recidivism at Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) was given at 62 per cent by Superintendent of Prisons Brenton Charles at the close of the criminal assizes last December. When he gave his report, Superintendent Charles said 294 of the prison population of 472 were repeat offenders.
Prison officials say there are many reasons for recidivism, prominent among these is the rejection former inmates experience when they go back to their homes and the stigma which makes it difficult for them to find legal employment.
The rejection and discrimination received on re-entering society is so unpleasant, that according to prison officials, many former inmates re-offend so that they would be sent back to jail, which, the horrible physical conditions notwithstanding, is more welcoming than what they encounter on the outside.
This is why, as a society, we ought to applaud and fully support programs at HMP which equip inmates with skills that prepare them to be self-employed on release and which help with reintegration into their families and communities.
One such program is the Women’s Family Day which was held last month at HMP. On that day, family members and loved ones were invited to the prisons for a day of socialization and fellowship during which female prisoners could rekindle and strengthen bonds with their children, grandchildren, siblings and other relatives.
But very importantly, highlights of the day’s activities were captured by videojournalist Aiko Roudette in a short feature that was published on Searchlight’s Facebook page on February 16 (https://www.facebook.com/Searchlight1/videos/904203806638094/).
If we are serious about stemming the rate of recidivism and assisting former inmates to reintegrate into society, we not only have to work on the rehabilitation of offenders, but also on the attitudes of the general public.
This is why it is important that we publish stories and images which show the inmates as human beings who love, are deserving of love and are loved. Many times, there is a unidimensional portrayal of convicts as monsters who do not deserve a second chance.
The publication of videos like Roudette’s helps the general public to shift the perception we have of those serving time for crimes, some of which we admit are very serious. But having shown them as people who come from families who love them, helps to erode some of the perception that they are less than human and helps when they are finally sent out to rejoin society.
People are more than the crimes they commit, and they should be given the chance to reveal the positive aspects of their characters and personalities, which can be developed for the ultimate benefit of the wider society.