Prisons are hit as pyschologists leave

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  • Westgate Prision

    Westgate Prision

  • Sheelagh Cooper

    Sheelagh Cooper

A recent loss of key psychologists in the Island’s prison system has significantly cut the level of treatment on offer to inmates, according to social campaigner Sheelagh Cooper.

The former Parole Board member told The Royal Gazette: “At any given time, there is little expertise in prison significant enough to run a bona fide treatment programme. There is a lack of psychological treatment offered in the prisons.”

She claimed Corrections had lost three psychologists from overseas in recent months, which effectively took away much of what the Department would be able to offer.

“It’s going to take a long time to fill those positions,” Ms Cooper said. “Those are tough jobs to fill.”

Queried on Ms Cooper’s claims, Commissioner of Corrections Edward Lamb said the Department was currently “actively recruiting for two vacant psychologist posts — recruitment for which is well-advanced”.

He added: “We hope to fill these posts in the very near future and are confident that there will be minimal disruption in the provision of psychological services.”

One loss was due to maternity leave, Lt Col Lamb said.

Westgate has also lost psychologist Gregory Kerry, who had dealt specifically with inmates serving life terms.

Dr Kerry did “fantastic work” at the facility, Lt Col Lamb said.

“Regrettably for us, Dr Kerry chose to return to Canada at the end of his contract earlier this month.”

According to the most recent Budget in February, a total of two full-time staff were employed by the Department of Corrections. Lt Col Lamb did not provide a figure for the number of psychologists staff still available following the recent losses and questions to Government were not answered.

However, according to Justice Minister Kim Wilson, the Department of Corrections initiated a collaboration with Court Services “several weeks ago” so that court resources could cover both the Violent Offender and Sex Offender Programmes until new psychologists were brought on board.

“Meanwhile, the very successful inmate group called Lifeline, which was implemented by Dr Kerry, will be now run by two other members of staff, without any disruption,” she added.

As increased focus on rehabilitation within the prison system has been mentioned by both Ms Wilson and former Justice Minister Michael Scott.

In March of last year, Mr Scott said a vacancy of two psychologist posts had placed “considerable limitations on the provision of psychological services to the Department’s facilities”.

However, he said three psychologists had been recruited for Westgate, the Farm Facility and the Co-Educational Facility.

Sen Wilson has also said rehabilitation programmes on offer at the Island’s correctional facilities would be bolstered by legislation to modify sentencing regimes so inmates take advantage of them.

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Published Nov 20, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 20, 2012 at 8:51 am)

Prisons are hit as pyschologists leave

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