A wayward person who likes to “knock about”
The T&T Prison Service must continue to be a vessel to influence change in society and in order to accomplish that mandate, there must be a continued shift away from the retributive to the rehabilitative.
These were the sentiments expressed yesterday by Prisons Commissioner Gerard Wilson as he addressed inmates and guests at the Port-of-Spain Prison for the launch of Debbie Jacob's book titled Making Waves: How The West Indies Shaped The United States.
Acknowledging the integral role Jacob plays in the prison's effort to educate inmates, Wilson said "There is nothing we can give you, nothing we can say that would show you how much we appreciate and love you."
Having received a standing ovation from those gathered as they applauded her achievement, Jacob laughed heartily along with the audience as Wilson expressed hope that her book would become a bestseller since he was certain three-quarters would be channelled back into the system.
Surprised to learn that the WI had indeed impacted the US, Wilson said he knew there were people in society who would also benefit from the information contained in the 30-chapter book.
Recalling the words of a media practitioner who after touring the POS Prison praised officials for taking straw and making it into gold, Wilson told those present "If you look around, you would understand the environment in which we have to function."
Commending the hard-working officers who remained committed to the job despite the physical and infrastructural challenges, Wilson said "Sometimes we are very quick to condemn and criticise, but we hardly ever praise. I don't know about anybody else, but I cannot run an organisation without officers, I can't."
Referring to the "180-degree turn" by the Prison Service to provide the public with snippets of how they operate and the conditions they have to endure, Wilson said "For far too long we have been hidden. For far too long we have been unrecognised. For far too long we have been criticised, sometimes with valid reasons, but most of the times the public does not understand what we go through on a daily basis."
Addressing the belief that those behind bars deserved to be locked up and the keys thrown away, Wilson said he learnt at a conference in Jamaica last week that 95 per cent of incarcerated people will be returned to society.
It was in this regard, he asked, "What do you want us to really do?"
"Lock them up and throw away the key, to come back out to society probably worse than they came in?"
He said changes must be made so that the prison does not become a revolving door.
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