Illiteracy, lack of support to blame
ILLITERACY AND LACK of family support have been identified as two of the main causes of recidivism.
Member of the Prison Board After-care Committee and executive council member of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), Jeffrey Grant, said most of the at least 900 prison population was between 16 to 28 years. Seventy-five per cent of them, he added, could not read or write, while 45 per cent had no family support and did not even get a visit.
Grant was one of the panellists at the BWU Educational Committee’s panel discussion under the title Yesterday, Today, The Future: Violence in Barbados – Issues, Challenges, Solution. It took place last Sunday at Solidarity House.
“If we can send a child from elementary school to secondary school and they cannot read or write, haven’t we failed these people?” Grant queried.
He said such people then leaned towards those who would offer them something and gave them the ability to survive.
Grant questioned how an unemployed 16-year-old could afford to legally purchase the cheapest gun which cost more than $4 000. He said individuals with the wherewithal were offering young people guns “to go out there and make money and bring them back a percentage”.
While making a case for exprisoners to be assisted so they did not return to jail, the trade unionist said it cost Government $53 631.75 per year to care for a prisoner.
“We have been asking some of the [construction firms] and those people to assist these people in job opportunities to allow them to reintegrate into society, so that they would not have to return to prison. We have found that none of these people are willing to offer these people any form of employment.
“Now they go to prison and learn skills, come out as masons, carpenters and plumbers, but then the employers say get a police certificate and that licks them back to where they were,” Grant said.
Additionally, he said they sought permission to use the old Glendairy Prison as a skills training/halfway house for at least six months for those who did not have anywhere to go after release. The people residing there would clean up and refurbish the area, he added.
However, Grant revealed that when they approached the Ministry of Housing and Lands, they were told it was a tourist attraction.
Several businesses had also offered to transform land in The Belle, St Michael, for the exprisoners to do agriculture and livestock farming, but Grant said that land was given to the Urban Development Commission.
“Wherever we try to bring some type of reform for those people, we are hitting our heads against the rocks,” he said. ( LK)