Jamaica has two major prisons, one, the Tower Street Correctional Facility (G.P) in downtown Kingston, and the Spanish Town prison in St Catherine. Both prisons are over one hundred years old and look the part. They are pest riddled, overcrowded, dilapidated and filled with inhumane facilities like the infamous bucket latrine. They are in short not fit for purpose.
Not fit for purpose. We keep hearing that, but what is the true purpose of a prison? Some think, and truly believe that prisons sole purpose is to keep the bad guys away from the good guys, to be a warehouse for criminals where they are either forgotten about or treated in ways that would be unimaginable on the outside. That however is not the purpose of prisons, not in the sense that we know it and it hasn’t been viewed that way for some time. Prisons are there yes to house criminals, but not so that they can be forgotten, but instead so that they can be rehabilitated and made fit for society and able to meet it’s demands upon there release.
We in Jamaica currently have the backwards view on prisons, and we have the prisons to show it. We however act surprised when persons who enter prison for minor charges but are generally decent persons end up leaving prison as learned criminals with a heart hardened to the state, authority and those who he perceives to have allowed him to suffer such conditions. In short we are surprised at the fruit that is bearing, the shame is that it is we as a society who planted the poisonous seed that has now been blossoming.
Prison instead of being a holding cell for societies unwanted and undesirables who are treated like dogs should be a rehabilitation center. What that means is that in the prison, a man who for example is in there for paradeal larceny, should be taught to farm. It means that persons who enter prison with no subjects should be educated so that when they leave they can make an honest living. Rehabilitation means that persons are taught skills such as welding, construction, tile laying and plumbing so that they don’t have to rely on crime to survive on the outside. Rehabilitation means that prisoners are given constant counseling and pych evaluations to see why they are so angry and how they can better control it, counseling so that they understand why they are in prison and that what they did was wrong.
Jamaica desperately needs new prisons to meet the demands of our local criminals and for the hundreds of deportees who, statistics tell us, will commit crimes. Unfortunately the state is skint and the party that currently forms the government scoffed at the prison deal that the British were touting. They should, if they really care about Jamaica and wish to make a lasting dent in crime should along with the opposition sound out the private sector for funds.
Jamaica’s private sector may not like to admit it, but they are awash with capital. Jamaican companies make up some of the wealthiest in the Caribbean and are in sectors that could be utilised in the rehabilitation program. The Jamaican private sector may be more than willing to listen, especially since they seem to have woken up in the past fifteen years and realize that crime has a negative effect on the economy.
Whatever the answer to the prison question, it is one that should be high up on the agenda of any political party that wishes to form or currently is in government. Crime is far too high, and while catching criminals is good and prevention is better, keeping people caged in conditions that most upper St Andrew persons wouldn’t keep there dog only makes the few and the caught even more dangerous, and that my friends is counterproductive, not rehabilitation and leaves us in our current state.