My Fellow Citizens and Residents,
It is my honour and privilege to inform you that Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) is celebrating its Annual Week of Activities from Sunday, April 22nd to Sunday, April 29th, 2018 under the theme “Rehabilitation is a Key Component of Reshaping an Incarcerated Mind.”
Fittingly, the week starts off with a church service, in recognition that its leadership and staff ought to thank God for their institution’s successes over the past year and ask for His guidance in charting its future.
This Week of Activities comes at a time when Her Majesty’s Prison is focused on further leveraging the achievements seen by the Ministry of National Security’s social intervention strategies, which had a robust rollout in 2017. For instance, crime reduction specialist, Dr. Neals Chitan, introduced the acclaimed social skills campaign, Project Stop ‘n’ Think.
Last April, thirty HMP residents in St. Kitts graduated from a 10-week Project Stop ‘n’ Think program. These prisoners learned to always stop and think before engaging once again in criminal activities, violent acts, drug use, gang culture and other behaviours that will negatively impact their lives and lead to recidivism when they are discharged from prison.
The Team Unity Government and, by extension, the Ministry of National Security and other partner Ministries have become increasingly determined over the past year to reduce reoffending and prevent incarceration, particularly among our youth. We are encouraged by statistics indicating that the prison population has been on a downward trend in recent times. The present-day prison population comprises 196 males and 8 females, with approximately 25 percent of them being repeat offenders.
Her Majesty’s Prison is therefore intent on developing and maintaining successful rehabilitation strategies in order to dramatically reduce the rate of reoffending upon release, and the prison system is also partnering with law enforcement agencies, community organizations and schools to help prevent young people from becoming first-time offenders.
In furtherance of this goal, the Ministry of National Security has launched the Mol-Phil, Shadwell, St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s Explorers Youth Clubs. These community-based groups promote character development and positive behaviours in our young people.
The Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force has also strengthened its 11-week Teen And Police Service Academy (TAPS). TAPS aims to reduce social distance between teenagers and law enforcement. As a result, several police constables have been assigned to secondary schools in both St. Kitts and Nevis to serve as full-time School Resource Officers.
During the TAPS sessions with students, the police touch on situations and topics related to bullying, conflict resolution, dating, nutrition and fitness, safe driving, substance abuse, team building and truancy. The TAPS students also participate in school beautification projects and field trips, and even witness police K-9 dog demonstrations. Apart from the TAPS sessions, TAPS Clubs have also been formed, thereby allowing the police to continually work with at-risk students in the schools. Last December, TAPS sent off its second graduating class comprising 74 students from six schools.
The TAPS Academy is another one of our social intervention programs being ably coordinated by Inspector Rosemarie Isles-Joseph; she is also the coordinator of the Explorer Clubs.
These social intervention programs I have outlined fall under the Ministry of National Security’s broader crime prevention strategy, in which Her Majesty’s Prison plays an integral role. In the TAPS Academy, for instance, several prisoners are invited into the high schools to make presentations to students about engaging, real-life topics, such as ‘Why it is important to avoid going to HMP and to stay away from Gangs.’
Her Majesty’s Prison is therefore instilling a sense of agency and purpose into its residents. Harkening back to the theme of the Week of Activities, this is crucial in reshaping their “incarcerated minds.”
Importantly, the prisoners are being taught that, instead of being a life sentence, adversity – and the way they respond to it – can be a conduit to greater things. Indeed, rehabilitation is a key component in empowering them to turn life’s setbacks into future successes.
Many of the prison residents are heeding this life-altering lesson about perseverance and resilience. For example, they are taking advantage of the expanded educational and technical-vocational offerings that are being made available to them. What’s more, the past few years have seen a significant increase in their CSEC/CXC and CAPE subject passes. Between 2015 and 2016, HMP boasted a total of 76 passes by residents in a wide range of subjects such as Accounts, Mathematics, Physics, Principles of Business, Spanish and Social Studies.
Prisoners are also learning to sharpen “soft skills,” such as marketing and self-promotion, as well as written and verbal communication, which are all essential to being successful in the workplace and in life, along with having a strong work ethic and a positive attitude. The overall focus is on helping these second-chancers expand their horizons beyond the prison walls, by, for instance, strengthening bonds between HMP and local businesses in order for prison residents to make a smooth reentry into society. Indeed, it is the humane and responsible thing to do.
The Team Unity administration therefore commends the vision, dedication and professionalism exhibited by the leadership and staff of Her Majesty’s Prison. This compassionate ethos is articulated in the theme for the week, which again is “Rehabilitation is a Key Component of Reshaping an Incarcerated Mind.” My Government takes this opportunity to encourage all HMP residents to always work hard, and to do so with a sense of honour and responsibility, so that they can make their families and loved ones, as well as themselves, proud. It is with great pleasure that I now officially open HMP’s Week of Activities for 2018. I wish you all a successful Week of Activities.