Prisoner rehab a worthwhile cause

Editorial

THE rehabilitation of prisoners may not be high on the list of priorities for provincial authorities, or jail house administrators, but seeing that law and order issues are a big concern in Papua New Guinea, it is probably worth some serious thought.
While one can conclude that serving time in jail is far from a pleasant experience, it does not have to be one that is spent essentially in confinement doing little else but following a monotonous routine.
The whole point of rehabilitation is to give offenders a chance to acquire some kind of training or valuable experience and insight while in the prison system in order to reintegrate them into society as a better-adjusted individual to discourage reoffending.
According to the Papu New Guinea Correctional Services mission statement, the mission of the CS is to enhance the safety and security of society through secure, humane containment and facilitating the rehabilitation of convicted detainees in partnership with stakeholders in fulfilment of CS’ mandate and to achieve Papua New Guinea Vision 2050.
The Buimo prison in Morobe recently took some steps to give a section of its prison population a chance at earning a living when they are released.
It is worth noting that Buimo came under fire over a month ago for its handling of a mass breakout which resulted in multiple fatalities and a large number of prisoners on the run.
Despite the deserved criticism, it clear that not only in Buimo but in prisons around the country that all is not well in this sector of state-run institutions.
But what other option is there for authorities with jail populations reaching proportions that are constantly stretching resources and manpower?
Prison breaks and similar occurrences are bound to happen. Of course, all this makes CS’ mandated duties and responsibilities all the more harder to carry out.
It might not be part of a national programme, but the initiative taken by the Buimo prison with a local secondhand clothes dealer in Lae is a start and could be a precursor for other initiatives between the prison and the business community.
However, small the gesture is, if anything it shows that the people who run the prison have some consideration for its inhabitants.
The initiative called the “After Prison Integration Programme” aims to help prisoners who return to the community readjust and have something to do – in this case it is through the sale of clothes.
The government needs to do more than that though, as a properly functioning CS, will mean better prisons will be able to carry out their core functions of which there are three main areas: the first is secure and humane containment – to provide adequate and appropriate facilities and resources for the secure and humane containment of offenders who are sentenced to terms of imprisonment, and those who are remanded in custody by the courts; the second of which is geared to welfare and rehabilitation – to provide counselling, education and training which will assist detainees to return to society as reformed citizens and the third is the development of the members of CS – to recruit, train and continually develop the skills and abilities of staff to ensure that the highest standards of offender supervision and rehabilitation are provided.
There is little doubt that CS is a crucial arm of the justice system, just as much as the police and the courts are.
Efforts are underway to build up the CS capacity to help meet its goals.
The CS earlier this year launched its Rehabilitation and Prison Industry policy aimed at giving hope to detainees to be accepted and be part of the community again when they are released.
Commissioner Michael Waipo said the policy was in line with the strategies of the CS Strategic Plan 2011-2020, the CS Act of 1995, and the government’s short and long-term development goals.
“Papua New Guinea Correctional Service is on the verge of major reforms, transformation and is reclassifying current correctional institutions,” Wapo said.
Under the policy, several CS institutions will undergo major transformation and become agriculture, technical and vocational operational institution.
These transformations will see convicted detainees undergo training for upskilling and knowledge-building, self-confidence with leadership traits making them into reformed detainees and return as changed and useful citizens to the community.
In the end, while prisoners will serve time for their crimes, they eventually return to their communities.
How they reintegrate back into them depends a lot on what they gain from their time served.

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