Former Director of the Bordelais Correctional Facility, Hilary Herman, will soon step down after five years of service as President of the Association of Caribbean Heads of Corrections and Prison Services (ACHCPS) despite repeated requests from association members for him to continue as their Head.The former Director reflects on his time as President of the Association:
“Friends and colleagues, as I stand before you for perhaps the last time as President of the Association of Caribbean Heads of Corrections and Prison Services I would like to remind you that ACHCPS is only as good and active as its membership.
Some of you may recall the address given by Senator the Honourable Martin Joseph,?Minister of National Security at the training symposium that was held at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain in June 2009 where he indicated that the region had endorsed the establishment of this association and that the Council of Caricom recognized the value that our association could bring to the management of crime and security in the region.
Today, six years on, we might pause to consider what our contribution has been.
The Minister also described the regional framework for the management of crime and security as determined by heads of government, namely:
– The conference of heads of government
– The lead prime minister for crime and security
– The council of ministers with responsibility for national security and law enforcement
– The security policy advisory committee
– Five standing committees of operational heads; Heads of Intelligence, Military Chiefs, Commissioners of Police, Comptrollers of Customs and Chiefs of Immigration.
While the framework did not incorporate the heads of corrections and prisons services, the Minister recognized the role that we must play in stemming the tide of violence and in ensuring the overall security of individual states and the region as a whole.
Again, six years on, we might pause to consider what our contribution has been.
In 2009, the Minister spoke on the theme “From Retribution to Corrections: Unlocking Excellence”. Some of us might have wondered where the excellence lay.
The Minister highlighted the inherent need for a shift in paradigms in order to ensure the implementation of best policies and practices in prison services throughout the Caribbean region. Such policies, he said, would promote the proper rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender and the overall enhancement of our society.
Again, six years on, we might pause to consider what shift has taken place. Are we better now than then?
The Minister went on to say that small states in the Caribbean were being challenged by escalating crime, violence and immorality, particularly as it involved our youth. The region was experiencing a horrific crime wave involving the most grievous offences. Our typical responses had been arrest, trial and incarceration. As a consequence, our prison populations were on the increase.
Again, six years on, we might pause to consider the size of our prison populations. Do we have fewer inmates now than then?
Many countries in the region inherited the old and timeworn philosophy of retributive justice from our former colonial system of governance. Today, many former colonial powers have moved from the retributive model to the restorative model. The question is: Have we?
The rehabilitation of the offender is the key driver in the adoption of restorative justice. Given that a substantial number of crimes are committed by repeat offenders, it is critical that the prison services and penal systems focus on rehabilitation and reintegration. Such an approach would not only reduce the degree of recidivism, but also be effective crime-management and would counteract “the revolving door syndrome”.
Again, six years on, we might pause to consider whether or not the “revolving door” still turns.
Colleagues, is it not a critical task for every government to ensure the efficient operations of the corrections administration services, to improve the effectiveness of the prison service and to enhance our capacity for the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders?
Again, six years on, we might ask ourselves whether or not governments provide the necessary financial resources so that we might attain our ultimate objectives, which are to protect the innocent, to deter criminals and to rehabilitate offenders.
The Minister reminded us of a time when, according to the retributive philosophy, the successful prison system was judged by the extent to which the system could keep the individual offender hidden away from the society, for the duration of his sentence.
Today, the Minister insisted, a successful prison system is characterized not simply by institutions of punishment, but by institutions that can bring about the desired attitudinal shift in the inmates. Such correction ensures that upon release, inmates can return to society, willing and able to make a meaningful and productive contribution.
The Minister was convinced that rehabilitation is the key to unlocking excellence. He insisted that all of the Caribbean community must collaborate in the adoption and implementation of best approaches to corrections within a re-integrative penal policy framework.
Again, we might pause to consider the reality of his dream: “all of the Caribbean community must collaborate in the adoption and implementation of best approaches to corrections within a re-integrative penal policy framework.”
Hilary Herman served Saint Lucia as Director of the Facility from before its inception until 2014 when his contract was not renewed.