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Anti-gang project to be tried in prisons

News that an anti-gang initiative is to be piloted in Bermuda's prisons has been welcomed by the Prison Officers Association.The Royal Gazette that Westgate houses “people from every crew in Bermuda” among its 190-strong population.He said prison would be the perfect place to introduce initiatives to bring them together.

Chairman of the association, Craig Clarke, says members of every gang on the Island live alongside each other in Westgate, and often don't know what they have been fighting about.

Announcing the initiative during the budget debate relating to the Department of Corrections yesterday, Minister of Justice Michael Scott said: “In addition to security measures to inhibit gang related activities within our facilities, a pilot project, based on the results of a survey currently being conducted on inmates, will commence in this fiscal year.

“The aim of the project will be to assist inmates in breaking connections with gang affiliations and to reintegrate successfully into the community upon their release.”

According to Police figures released last year, there are 17 gangs in Bermuda with around 350 members, ranging in age from 12 to 35.

There have been a number of high-profile convictions in gang related cases over the past twelve months.

Last year, Mr Clarke told

“In a controlled environment we might have a better chance of sitting guys down and making them realise the differences they have are not so far apart,” he said at the time.

Welcoming news of yesterday's announcement, he said: “Anything to deal with gangs and get gang members to talk to one another is a good thing.

“It is good to have a pilot programme. I don't see why they can't get along and sit down and communicate.

“The issues they're fighting about are ridiculous and half of the time they don't even know why they're fighting.

“Right now we are inundated with different gang affiliations. We do our best to try and separate them. Most of the time it's the young offenders. They're coming in on a regular basis right now.”

Mr Scott also announced progress in recruiting psychologists to help prison inmates deal with other issues.

He explained: “During this year, two of the psychologist posts were vacant for eight months, which placed considerable limitations on the provision of psychological services to the department's facilities.

“However, since mid-November, psychological services have been provided by three psychologists who work with offenders at each of the three facilities; Westgate Correctional Facility [including the Transitional Living Centre], Farm Facility [including the Therapeutic Community Centre] and Co-Educational Facility in a number of ways.”

He said the psychologists do assessments of needs, emotional wellbeing, treatment options and priorities and mental health issues. They provide counselling in the areas of substance abuse education and treatment plus a violent offender programme, sexual offender programme and cognitive skills programme.

Gang initiative: Westgate Correctional Facility (Photo by Tamell Simons)

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Published March 10, 2011 at 8:58 am (Updated March 10, 2011 at 8:57 am)

Anti-gang project to be tried in prisons

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