The training centre is expected to be an integral part of the rehabilitation process and should provide prisoners with not just skills but also internationally recognised qualifications from City and Guilds, officials said.
In what Prison Service Acting Director Daniel Greaves called “a significant milestone in the prison’s history” a commitment was made by several people to bring the vocational training facility at the men’s prison in Grand Cayman to fruition. Mr. Greaves said it was his expectation that the building and its resources would be used to enhance prisoners’ lives by giving them useful life skills.
The building housing the workshops was primarily built by inmates.
According the government’s Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, $1.2 million was spent on the building and its contents, in addition to a tilapia fish farm and livestock pens.
“We realise we need to strike a balance between security and rehabilitation,” said Eric Bush, chief officer of the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs. “We cannot lock folks away and forget about them. Human rights legislation means that even those who have committed the most heinous crimes will eventually be introduced. We have to take this opportunity and equipped them with skills such as carpentry, computer repairs, leather craft, tailoring, plumbing.”
Gossett Oliver, an engineering professor at the University of Technology, Jamaica who is affiliated with City and Guilds in the Caribbean, will be conducting audits of staff and the centre during a five-day period.
“I commend this initiative,” he said. “It is an eye opener to see that we can have rehabilitation as an anchor for inmates in the Caribbean. City and Guilds is steep in vocational education, with 96 countries participating. There is a universal practicality about the qualification that gives you mobility to move across borders; and it is competency driven.
“It has been my experience that some certification is empowering and because City and Guilds can be done in small bites it means you can progress to your ultimate goal,” he added.
Inmate Council representative Trevino Bodden told visitors and well-wishers that inmates were excited about not only being trained, but also being qualified.
“We recognise that skills will serve to give us new hope,” he said.
Government Minister of Education, Training and Employment Rolston Anglin, who delivered the keynote address, spoke to the inmates directly to begin his remarks, telling that they were “todays inmates but tomorrow’s employees,” adding that any training that was underpinned with internationally recognised qualifications has his support.
“Employers should have no doubt what they are getting,” Mr. Anglin said. “Let’s not kid ourselves. People are in business to make a profit. It should be said also that there is a strong correlation between education and recidivism. All too often we hear that our youngest and brightest are in Northward. Really? That my friends, I do not think is the truth.
“In actuality, the folks need our assistance to be equipped for life and be productive,” he added. “Reasons for being in prison usually don’t have anything to do with being over educated. Skills, emotional, mental and spiritual gaps need to be tackle in order to give people a chance. This facility will provided hope, but it still comes down to individuals and their choices.”
He ended his address by telling the inmates that the community needs them back making a positive contribution.