Rehabilitation helps offenders, community

The Cayman Islands Government Probation Aftercare Unit has designated this week as Probation and Parole Week, Community Rehabilitation is Everybody’s Business. The Caymanian Compass will include daily articles about the unit to help the community fully understand what the service provides.

Community Rehabilitation for offenders is often authorized by the Court hence its legally recognized role in the Criminal Justice System.

Citizens are usually more aware of the role of the police as the frontline enforcers of the law.

However, the main arms of the criminal justice system are the police, the legal department and the courts, the prison and the Probation Services.

Hands and feet

Regardless of where the Probation Services is placed in Government bureaucracy, it serves as a statutory body, frequently referred to colloquially, as the hands and feet of the court.

Under the Probation of Offenders Law, magistrates and judges mandate that the Probation Aftercare Unit provide reports to the court, supervise offenders in the community and provide services to enhance prevention and offender rehabilitation in the community.

In collaboration with service-providers in the criminal justice system, the Probation Aftercare Unit promotes public safety by monitoring compliance of offenders with the conditions set by the court and by facilitating opportunities for the development of self assertion toward behaviour change that results in law-abiding life styles.

Unlike incarceration or institutionalization, community rehabilitation eliminates the concerns expressed under the Deprivation Theory that has been extensively researched in prisons.

The concerns include the deprivation of liberty, goods and services, autonomy and heterosexual relationships.

Rather, community rehabilitation allows the individual to remain in family relationships, pursue a productive life and participate in programmes of rehabilitation that are often more available in the community.

The process of community rehabilitation has its theoretical bases in the Social Learning Theory and the Social Attachment Theory.

Learned behaviour

The Social Learning Theory teaches that criminal behaviour is learned and that social intervention or treatment should be tailored to meet the needs of individual offenders.

The Social Attachment Theory purports that the more attached individuals are to social institutions (family, religion, education, community, work, politics), the less likely such an individual will commit a crime.

The aim in providing a process of community rehabilitation is help the offender to enhance social attachment and inculcate new social learning.

In many jurisdictions, initiatives are been taken in the criminal justice system to increase programmes geared to young offenders rehabilitation and reintegration in the community. Hence, the process of community rehabilitation is often expanded with increased use of community based orders and non-custodial alternatives. These efforts are enhanced with the reduced use of incarceration, reserving this for chronic repeat offenders and serious offences.

The Cayman Islands has been pursuing increased use of alternative sentencing and have already drafted the Alternative Sentencing Bill.

In addition, minor offenders and those on domestic violence charges have been diverted from immediate custodial sentencing to community-based education and rehabilitation programmes.

The Probation Aftercare Unit provides a vast amount of services geared toward facilitating community rehabilitation.

Some of these are as follows:

• Personal Counselling with Probation Officers

• Case conferences with support agencies

• Home visits

• Family interventions where necessary

• Collaborative approach and Referrals to other agencies for Substance Abuse

• Treatment, vocational guidance and education, marriage counselling, psychiatric treatment and other specialized services

• Group counselling and treatment programmes for domestic violence, anger management and support during recovery

Other groups are facilitated in the institutions as part of their reintegration programme. These groups are Stress Management, Goal Setting, Time to Change and Young Offenders Programmes.

Groups facilitated by the Probation Aftercare Unit often include participants that are referred by agencies such as FSU, Children and Family Services, Women’s Resource Centre as well as the courts. These participants especially those on the Domestic Violence Programme become part of a diversion programme of activities in the Cayman Islands that help to prevent further re-offending.

Hence, groups serve as treatment intervention for either first or repeat offenders and play an important role in the reduction of recidivism among offenders assessed as being at low or medium risk to re-offend.

Treatment intervention for clients on community- based orders specifically targets their criminogenic needs.

These criminogenic needs are often reflected in anti-social attitudes, inconsistent and warped values, anti-social peers, violent behaviours, abnormal psychological tendencies, chemical dependency, sexual perversions and are usually accompanied by illiteracy, unemployment, low self- esteem and poor family structure.

Lifting self worth

The Probation Aftercare Unit seeks to help offenders to lift their self worth and become relationship builders by providing tools for personal development and self- transformation.

Treatment programmes provide knowledge but offenders must restructure their lives and seek to motivate themselves and others.

Often the probation officer will seek the involvement of family members, other professionals and caregivers to support the client’s effort to create and sustain new values and behaviours.

The Probation Aftercare Unit is faced with real challenges resulting from the gaps in social programmes in the Cayman Islands.

Two major areas are the need for rehabilitation programmes for the mentally challenged and for community vocational and guidance programmes for offenders 17 and older.

The latter could function as a social safety net, whereby those who have failed in the formal educational system are given a second chance to access training opportunities.

Such a programme may be provided for both residential and non-residential participants, on short (weekends) or long term courses. The unit has recognized that offenders requiring intensive service and more supervision are often stereotyped and feel marginalized and excluded.

Programmes to fill these and other social gaps can enable youth inclusion, empowerment and resettlement in communities.

Community Rehabilitation can provide many opportunities for behavioural change.

It has been proven that rehabilitation in community is much cheaper than incarceration and can be much more effective.

Hence, opportunities for assessment, training, continued affordable education and guidance in the community are also cost effective when enabling persons to restructure their lives.

For youth empowerment, bridging programme gaps in the process of rehabilitation is needed in order to help offenders to claim or reclaim a sense of purpose, bridge their skill gaps and assume their rightful identity as valued members of society.