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Help to cut reoffending risk available for prisoners

Westgate prison in Dockyard (File photograph)

More than 30 services and programmes are offered to help people in the island’s prison system, a Government spokeswoman said.

She added that a refusal to take part in some core courses could affect release dates and parole chances.

The Department of Corrections runs Westgate, the Prison Farm, the Co-Educational Facility in St George’s and the Right Living House – a residential substance abuse treatment scheme.

A spokeswoman said: “There are just over 30 rehabilitative, life skills, support services, educational and vocational programmes offered at the facilities to assist inmates.

“These programmes are tailored to address the needs of the individual and the programmes are identified through case management and other assessments.”

She added that some group sessions were affected by Covid-19 restrictions.

The spokeswoman said that programmes covered sex offender and violence reduction treatment, anger management, drug education, relapse prevention, life skills and business studies.

Courses in carpentry, horticulture and motor mechanics were also offered.

The spokeswoman added: “All inmates sentenced to 12 months or more receive a series of assessments.

“Based on the results of their assessments and other collaborative information, a case management plan is formulated.

“Inmates are placed in the appropriate programme to address their identified needs.

“Case management plans may be adjusted based on developments and/or newly identified needs. They are reviewed on a regular basis.”

She said: “Some programmes may be mandated by the courts in addition to the case management plans.

“Inmates may choose whether or not they participate in any intervention/programme.

“However, if they choose not to participate in core offending behaviour programmes such as sex offender treatment, their earliest release date and parole may be impacted.”

The spokeswoman added that all inmates sentenced to a year or more were given a plan for release.

She said: “Inmates who leave on a parole or probation order will be assisted in their community transition by their assigned Court Services officer.”

The spokeswoman said that the Right Living House included aftercare so people who had completed the residential part continued to get support.

She added: “The Right Living House aftercare portion is a structured format offered in an outpatient treatment model to help them transition to the community utilising the skills they acquired.”

Juan Wolffe, the senior magistrate, highlighted that some offenders could do better without a custodial sentence.

He said: “In some instances, imprisonment can have a positive effect on offenders – however, in other instances, it may also reinforce or solidify criminal tendencies, such as in young persons.

“While the Westgate Correctional Facility does a very good job with those under their charge, at the end of the day Westgate is still a prison.

“This means that inmates may not receive the comprehensive treatment or counselling that they need.”

Mr Wolffe added: “By being in the community they are able to address their issues and thereby reduce the likelihood of committing further offences.”

He said access to bail for people awaiting trial was “an expression” of the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

He added: “Therefore, even those who have been charged with the most heinous of crimes can be granted bail unless the magistrate is satisfied that there is a likelihood that they will abscond, interfere with witnesses or the police investigation, or commit further offences whilst on bail.”

Mr Wolffe said that magistrates considering bail would look at conditions such as financial guarantees, electronic monitoring devices and curfews.

He added: “This is all in an effort to keep persons from being criminalised by remanding them into custody while they are awaiting trial for an offence which they say they are not guilty of committing.”

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Published August 10, 2021 at 7:55 am (Updated August 10, 2021 at 7:41 am)

Help to cut reoffending risk available for prisoners

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