Tuesday 29 September, 2020

Prison conditions made me sick, Senator says

Conditions within the nation's prisons are sickening. So sickening that one Senator said he fell ill after touring the facilities. 

Independent Senator Paul Richards made the statement on Wednesday as he chaired a Joint Select Committee inquiring into the challenges of prisoner reentry into society and prisoner reintegration services. 

Richards said while there is much talk about restorative justice and rehabilitation programmes, the conditions within the prisons are not conducive to rehabilitation.

"I toured three of your facilities and I got ill in four hours," Richards told Commissioner of Prisons Gerard Wilson.

"I think it is anathema to talk about proper programmes when you stuff me in an eight by six cell with little ventilation that is clogged, eight of us on a good day, with a pail for defecation and a mattress if you're lucky."

Richards said spending most of the day in a cell under those conditions and being taken out for one hour to attend a rehabilitation programme cannot be expected to have any impact. 

"I think that is ridiculous and it is almost laughable," he said.

"If I spend 14 years under those conditions, I don't know how any system can change me." 

Richards noted that the recidivism rate is estimated to be at 80 percent. 

Wilson said he agreed that the conditions, specifically in Remand Yard, takes a toll on the psyche of inmates.

Nevertheless, he said he would rate the prison rehabilitative system 7 out of 10.

"Because we have been doing quite a lot," he said.

He said the recidivism rate cannot be accurately determined as inmates are not monitored after release. 

"How do we know whether they are still alive why they didn't come back, if they migrated, if they committed a crime but we don't know, if they came into remand but got bail?

"But in terms of the programmes we are successful, we do an excellent job but if we don't have the follow-up, that is where the problems lie."

Vision on Mission Programme Director Gordon Husbands advocated for continuous monitoring and assessment of prisoners once they leave the system.

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