Inmate projects need greater ‘sensitivity’
Social rehabilitation programmes involving prisoners will be undertaken with greater sensitivity for the community, Senator Jeff Baron has pledged.
Mr Baron, the Minister of National Security, drew criticism from some quarters when two convicted murderers visited primary schools across the island to deliver Bermuda kites made by inmates as part of the prison's kite giveaway initiative.
He told The Royal Gazette that a mother who had lost a son to gun violence had contacted him to voice her concerns about the programme.
Mr Baron insisted that social programmes were a vital part of rehabilitation in prison, but acknowledged that authorities had to manage them with sensitivity.
“I get it; this is a tremendously small community,” Mr Baron said. “There are few people in Bermuda more qualified to describe the impact of this issue than a mother of a victim.
“I understand where that criticism or concern came from; I certainly did not want to wave it in anyone's face. But social programmes like the kite donation and also the bike giveaway to children that the inmates do have a huge value within corrections.
“I would never want to marginalise or downplay what this mother goes through every day. I spoke with her initially on the phone, but then asked if we could meet in person. It's important I have these discussions that can be very raw and difficult.”
Mr Baron maintained that the kite and bike donation programmes would continue, but authorities would do more to understand and foresee unintended consequences. He added: “These social programmes for inmates have to continue and they will; we are not a prison, we are a corrections facility.
“But we have to involve more of the community in these social programmes and discuss the unintended problems that may arise; the kite giveaways and the bike giveaways have been happening for years.
“I would like to see just as many programmes or more, but we have to think about how they are presented. We are looking to be more aware and have a bit more sensitivity. We want to continue these programmes; the kite and the bike programme will not stop. But will we manage them with sensitivity? The answer is ‘yes'.”
Mr Baron went on to praise the Department of Corrections for their work and the delivery of a highly successful Corrections Week earlier this month.
However, he admitted he was concerned about the issue of drugs being brought into prisons and used by inmates.
“It's concerning there are new drugs on the market now in Bermuda like fentanyl. Westgate is a microcosm of society outside; where there is a will there is a way and people get creative about how they support their habit.
“I know that the Commissioner has an action-orientated approach to the problem. The recent report that two inmates were taken to hospital after suspected overdoses has again caused this conversation to surface. What was unfortunate was that it occurred at the beginning of Corrections Week; a highly successful week that highlights the positives coming out of corrections.”