Acting Commissioner of Prisons, Assistant Superintendent of Police (AS) John Mitchell has revealed that six out of every 10 inmates that are incarcerated at the Richmond Hill prison return to prison, while eight in every 10 inmates who are rehabilitated no longer come back to serve time at the institution.
Mitchell who was speaking at a recent ceremony in which a number of items were given to Her Majesty’s Prison, said that although rehabilitation is one of the things that seem to be working at the prison, he is questioning other methods such as deterrence and punishment.
He described as “astounding” the statistics that six in every 10 inmates that are incarcerated in Grenada actually return to prison at some point in time to serve another sentence and this represents.
“It takes me to a story when I was 18 years: The first individual that I ran after as a young (Police) Constable at 18 years, when I became Commissioner of Prisons, I met that individual here and I was told he had some 50 to 55 convictions within that period of time. So, the revolving door for him is endless and the revolving door for six in every 10 inmates remains endless. It means therefore that persons spend between 20 to 30 years here at the prison, that’s a regeneration of Grenadians who continue to come back at the prison, time and time again,” he said.
Mitchell called for a relook at the Criminal Justice System because when a person is incarcerated, they are sent to prison as a form of punishment, a form of deterrence, and to get rehabilitation.
However, he questioned how much of the system is really working to turn around the lives of prisoners.
He said: “If six out of 10 persons return to prison, we have to be careful as to what we do, maybe we need to relook our Criminal Justice System to know what’s working and what is not working and so, is deterrence working?
“I don’t think there is any criminal who sits and consider the sentencing schedule before they commit a crime. I don’t think they go to a lawyer’s office and asked – am I going to get 10 years or 15 years for this and then commit a crime, no that’s not so. They commit the crime and then they begin to think as to what the sentence would be if they are caught.
“So the question is within our current construct is deterrent working? And we have to ask ourselves these hard questions. Is punishment working? We have to ask ourselves these hard questions.”
Commissioner Mitchell also addressed the issue of whether or not rehabilitation of prisoners in working in the system.
“…I have researched and not being biased that over 80 percent of persons who have been involved and successfully completed rehabilitation process at this prison has not returned to prison and this is good. So, you gotta ask yourself the question, six in 10 comes through that revolving door, who would have not been rehabilitated and eight in 10 who have been rehabilitated remain outside.
It means therefore, that we have to consider what is best in this construct at this point in time for Grenada, for the prison, while we remain and continue to care, give custody and also to secure our inmates”, he said..
Chaplain at Orange County Corrections Facility, Claude Edwards, who was visiting Her Majesty’s Prison at Richmond Hill last week to hand over some Carpentry equipment to the facility, chimed in on issue of rehabilitation within the prison system.
Edwards said: “I am a Chaplain in the Orange County Corrections Facility (in Canada) and I can tell you I have seen so much where rehabilitation is concern. In fact, I am in charge of rehabilitation for almost 3900 men and the first thing I look at every single day (is) what is the cause of so much men behind bars – the break down in families.
“We’ve got women having children for any man as long as he drives a nice car and that is not the answer to the problems we have today. We can’t stop some of the process that we see happening but guess what, we have to as a people try to create a difference one way or another. Prisoners will always come…”.
According to Edwards, he often tries to instill in prisoners under his command the need to learn from some of the lessons of black people.
He said: …I say to my guys at work every day, the prisoners I talk to, I say let me tell you something, every time you live, you must live like how black people eat at restaurants. The guys ask me why – I say let me tell you something, as a black man when I go in the restaurants, the first thing I look at is the price.
“I look at the price before I sit down and eat anything, I want to know when I’m through I can pay for it; before you do the next action, you better be careful and know that you can pay for it because the man who does the crime has to serve the time.” he added.