(CNS): With the prison now obligated to rehabilitate offenders before they can be released into the community but with no new resources to do so, inmates in the lowest risk category are being encouraged to join external work parties and participate in community projects. As part of this new initiative, four prisoners recently volunteered to work over four days on a beach clean-up covering over a mile of coastline in North Side.
Prison Director Neil Lavis, who has previously noted the need for more investment in rehabilitation for inmates, said he will continue to support community projects as much as the resources of the prison service allow.
“When prisoners assist, we must also provide staff to supervise them, so it is not always easy considering our present understaffing, but we are happy to help in any way we can,” he said.
Participation is voluntary, a spokesperson for the prison service told CNS. “We do not require inmates to do community service. However, civic responsibility is very much a part of rehabilitation and is a critical factor when considering parole, risk categorisation, etc.” While the work is not required, it is “certainly recommended, depending on risk category, environmental factors and nature of offense”, the spkesperson added.
Acting Deputy Director for Rehabilitation Richard Barton pointed out that promoting civic mindedness helps prisoners recognise their role and responsibility as members of the community.
“Most of the prisoners that are held at HMP Northward and Fairbanks are local citizens and they must return to these very communities when released,” he said. “It is good for them to be a part of the restoration and work going on, establish networks and build relationships with community members. All of this will ease their re-entry into society once they are released.”
The prison work party in the North Side clean-up included local and expatriate prisoners, who worked side by side to clear the beach of seaweed and garbage. Over 90 bags of refuse were removed from the beaches during the project, and North Side resident Anne McFarlane, who coordinated the project, said she was extremely pleased with the prisoners’ work.
Inmates have been engaged over the last few years to assist with much needed renovations at the prisons following the condemnation of HMP Northward and HMP Fairbanks by the UK’s prison inspectors.