Benn wants more male inmates involved in prison reform activities

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As he joined a thanksgiving service in observance of the Guyana Prison Service’s 40th anniversary on Friday, Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn drew attention to the limited number of male inmates who participate in reform activities.

This is something he hopes every inmate will undergo before they complete their period of incarceration.

Melodious songs of praise reverberated within the walls of the National Cultural Centre, Homestretch Avenue where the annual church service was held.

This year’s observance is themed ‘Promoting Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Prisoners’.

There was also a ribbon-cutting ceremony where Minister Benn said the prison reform programme has fewer men involved and he hopes this can be rectified to avoid persons returning to violent or dangerous tendencies upon completing their prison sentence.

The Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn and Director of Prisons Nicklon Elliot admire some of the craftsmanship done by inmates and Prison Service trainers (Photo: Ministry of Home Affairs)

“We are engaging them in agriculture work which has been significant over the last year or so but particularly in relation to furnishing and training.

“There is high participation of the female prisoners with respect to these activities but we have to advance more the issues of men being involved,” Minister Benn said.

He said that while some programmes are still in their initial stages, it remains important to tackle the issues before people return to their old ways.

Further, the minister said that through the transformation of the prison service, the reintegration of prisoners into society is safer for ex-convicts and the communities they join.

“We want to move from merely keeping persons but really conscientiously rehabilitating persons.

“We are aware that there is great potential there and that if there is time which you have to spend in prison that is time which should not be wasted and which should benefit the society by working with them to make them better Guyanese that they would reintegrate into society and would not pose a risk to themselves or their families, the community or the country,” the minister said.

The Prison Service is responsible for custody and retraining persons who are sentenced to prison, as well as engagement in economic and other social programmes to support national development.

Chair sets made by prisoners were on display at the exhibition (Photo: DPI/ September 29, 2023)

In 2023 improvement plans included the construction of several prisons and living quarters, improving facilities and amenities, modernization of penal legislation, and enhancement of successful offenders’ reintegration into society.

The products that inmates made as they benefited from the reform programmes at the Lusignan, Mazaruni and New Amsterdam prisons were on display at the exhibition.

Inmates who conduct welding and construction made lamps, fireside stoves, desks, benches, bed frames, chair sets. Those who are involved in food preparations made seasonings and meals.

There is also a programme which allows them to make butters for moisturizing the skin. Several other programmes include barbering and craftsmanship.

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