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Prisoners take advantage of new Community Reintegration Fair

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Prison inmates struggling to cope with life sentences are entitled to help along with those facing release.

This was the message behind a forum connecting inmates with assistance programmes, said Commissioner of Corrections Edward Lamb.

“No matter what they have done, no matter how heinous their crime, one day they’re coming out through these walls,” he told representatives of various private and Government organisations.

“Our aim is to expose inmates to those who are out there in the community who can assist them in reintegration.”

Lt Col Lamb was speaking just before the first prisoners from medium and minimum security units arrived for the facility’s Community Reintegration Fair.

The first group, some of whom were facing release this year, entered the visitor’s room at 10am to find more than 20 stalls.

Construction firms were notably prevalent, offering training rather than the promise of employment, explained Trinity Construction’s James Guishard.

“Right now there is not a lot of work, but our programme is not necessarily the work side. It’s about getting the skills, so that you can go anywhere.”

Attending the fair for the second year, the company hoped to interview prospects for mentoring, he said.

Lt Col Lamb described the fair as “helping them to put tools in their toolbox”.

“We’re here to encourage them and show them what it takes,” said Bermuda Air Conditioning technician Vance Hollis. “We let them know what qualifications they need and where to get them.”

Other services, such as Financial Assistance, Labour and Training and the Bermuda Housing Corporation, offer help upon release, said social worker Lynnee Tanner.

A representative from Alcoholics Anonymous said: “It’s a terrible danger for inmates when they first come out, and there’s a risk they can end up blowing it. We’re here just as a support. We’re also hoping to set up an AA group here, where people can come together and share their experiences.”

The reintegration fair, part of a programme dubbed Bridging the Gap, is a “mammoth task”, explained coordinator Yvette Brown.

“The Department of Corrections is doing a good job, despite what you may hear,” she said. “Everything we do here is built around helping the inmates.”

The broader task of reintegration includes some new educational and remedial programmes, she said.

The newly-formed Fatherhood Programme puts inmates helps inmates open up to their families, and includes “fathers writing letters to their children, apologising for not being there”, she said.

Psychologist Gregory Kerry was on hand to talk about the Lifers Programme, put in place a year ago.

“Life sentences are getting longer and longer in Bermuda,” he said. “What do you do with a man who’s been put in jail for 35 years? I initiated this programme with the idea of giving them the autonomy to run it themselves.”

Lifers learn to help one another cope with the decades of confinement ahead of them.

“This is their home,” Dr Kerry said. “One thing they come to resent is people doing short sentences who come in and create problems.

“We can find them effective in talking with other prisoners as well as each other.”

The Dreaming in Colour life skills programme is run by case worker Kenlyn Butterfield.

“We cover everything from health and hygiene, art therapy, setting good goals, anger management to assertiveness and self esteem,” she said of the six-week programme.

“We’re trying to bring back the dreams that they have lost.”

A group of Westgate residents speaks to Kenlyn Butterfield from the Dreaming in Color life skills program at the Bridge the Gap fair held at Westgate Correctional Facility yesterday. Inmates were given the opportunity to speak with business and aid agencies to better prepare themselves for release.
Commisioner of Corrections Eddie Lamb addresses aid providers at the Bridge the Gap fair held at Westgate Correctional Facility yesterday. Inmates were given the opportunity to speak with business and aid agencies to better prepare themselves for release.

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Published March 29, 2012 at 9:49 am (Updated March 29, 2012 at 9:48 am)

Prisoners take advantage of new Community Reintegration Fair

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