Guyana needs an ex-offender rehabilitation programme

Dear Editor,

While studying in the USA I wrote a lecture series that the Indiana Department of Corrections now use in their prisons and correctional facilities. In one of the lessons I noted that ex-offenders need a “Brotherhood”, a “State of Belonging”. I wrote the lecture series, which is now a work book, while serving as a Prison Chaplain in the State of Indiana. The course is based on extensive research and also is a result of my own experience.

The lectures were written in 2007; however, the more time that elapses the more justified I feel for having written the book, even as I see what is happening here in Guyana, and especially among the offender community. We have a recidivism rate of 75-80%; these offenders are between the ages of 18-45. Additionally, most of those who recidivate, do so two or more times. So what we have is 3/4 of our prison population going in and out of prison, within months of their release. Yet we have absolutely no programmes in place to assist this problematic clientele.

In my lecture series I noted that there was need for the brotherhood of ex-offenders. This is based on what obtains behind the walls of the prison. While incarcerated, packs, groups and gangs are formed to aid in the survival of the inmate. It is an established fact within the prison population that everyone needs someone to look out for him/her. The need is so great that often sometimes sexual favours and other illegal acts are solicited to guarantee the needed protection. Hardly anyone incarcerated for any protracted length of time goes through a prison sentence without forming allegiances with some subset of his/her fellow prisoners.

This default survival tactic then forms part of the mental psyche of the prisoner. Over time it becomes a part of the inherent behaviour of the inmate; a need for a sense of belonging. It is assessed as one instance of the modus operandi of those incarcerated, and forms part of what is commonly termed the “prisoner mentality.”

When the ex-offender leaves prison that bonding and the need for support and protection do not immediately cease. So the default behaviour of the released individual is to go in search of his/her buddies. Because Guyana does not have a formal ex-offender rehabilitation programme, there are no healthy ways for the individual with the “prisoner mentality” to find support. The only persons then that remain a part of the support group are those still practising criminal behaviours.

The now stigmatized, isolated, mostly illiterate, unemployed ex-offender, feels compelled to seek the warmth of these problematic gatherings and the cycle of crime and recidivism continues.

It is a known fact that anywhere there is a formally established ex-offender rehabilitation programme, the crime and recidivism statistics are reduced. This is because the ex-offender, who has decided to change, could now have access to facilities and programmes that speak to his/her criminogenic needs. Prison is never easy or preferred, and there are many who leave prison desiring to change, but because there are no structured initiatives in place, the ex-offender is likely to seek the company of those unsavoury characters and the vicious cycle of violence and antisocial behaviour are repeated.

This administration should establish a place where the formerly incarcerated could benefit from resources that will aid in developing behaviour that lends to the reduction in crime and the building up of Guyana. It would be to the government’s benefit to spearhead the establishment of Guyana’s first ex-offender rehabilitation programme. Give the ex-offenders a healthy place where they could meet and find support from each other. This will help in the reduction of crime in Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Pastor W P Jeffrey

Practical Christianity Ministries

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