Sykes points to importance of family in crime prevention

Sykes points to importance of family in crime prevention

Urges greater parental role in children’s lives

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

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Stressing the importance of strong functional families and the key role they play in crime prevention, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes yesterday urged after-care probation officers to use every opportunity they get to encourage parents to play a greater role in the lives of their children.

“I wish to urge that wherever you have this opportunity to make this connection with parents… to seize it and to emphasise to parents the importance of being present, active and functional.

“They need to be more involved in the lives of their children and not only turn up at school when they get a note from the principal that John is about to be expelled or that Mary is about to be suspended; that is when you see many parents coming and even then some parents still don’t come,” Justice Sykes said.

“And so whenever you have the opportunity to address schools or PTAs (Parent-Teacher Associations) don’t see it as an additional burden, although it is; see it as an opportunity to get across the importance of family and their involvement in the lives of the child,” he added.

Noting that the idea of family was ordained by God, he said: “The foundation of all societies is the family, and strong, functional families are vitally important.”

He said numerous studies have shown that children who are raised in strong and healthy families with active parents are less likely to get involved in antisocial behaviour of any kind.

“The importance of fathers to boys cannot be overemphasised,” he added.

The chief justice was bringing greetings at a lively church service marking Probation After-care Services Week, hosted at St Paul’s United Church in downtown Kingston by probation after-care officers from region 1.

While commending the probation after-care officers for the valuable work that they do, he also encouraged them to help campaign for changes in the country’s prison system.

“We need to become advocates for change in respect of our prisons. It’s one of the remaining legacies of colonialism that we really have not looked at,” he said, noting that the colonial model was based on the warehousing and prevention of escape of prisoners.

According to Justice Sykes, the focus of the prison system was not rehabilitation, and so the present system in its current state is not transmitting a comprehensive message of rehabilitation.

He pointed to Singapore’s prison system as a very good example of a model for rehabilitation, saying that on his recent visit to that country he was surprised to see that they had air-conditioning units in the waiting area; seats for visitors; and booths with prison officers providing information.

Justice Sykes said there were also classes of all sorts, all the warders were trained counsellors and that a section of the prison had a call centre where prisoners were employed. Along with that he said the prison was quiet, clean, and all around had positive messages that prison is not the end of the world, but rather an opportunity to make a better start.

“People were speaking but not shouting and behaving boisterous, and they still had the issues that they have in prisons — fighting, weapons and so on. So don’t get the impression that all the prisoners were model citizens, they still had those issues but didn’t have as many because the prisoners were really treated like humans instead of being regarded as persons who were locked up with the keys thrown away and 20 years down the road you simply pick them up, push them through the gate and say ‘good luck’,” Justice Sykes said.

He said the modern prison system in Singapore, which has one of the lowest rates of recidivism — about 15 per cent — demonstrates that having a proper and effective system for rehabilitation is doable.

Meanwhile, Dexter Thompson, director of corporate communications and public relations at the Department of Correctional Services, used his greetings to praise the probation after-care officers for their yeoman service.

“The probation after-care service is one of the unsung heroes of the department. They do a very important job,” he said.

Thompson said the after-care service team has implemented different programmes which have made significant impact in the lives of inmates and have ventured in volatile areas without the protection of the police and without any weapons or any self-defence skills to get information to assist judges. That, he insisted, is praiseworthy.

“Your names end with service, and I know most of you have a passion to serve. The work you do is life-changing and I ask you to continue to do of your best,” he said.

The probation after-care service is an arm of the Department of Correctional Services. Its officers’ functions include supervising wards in juvenile facilities and inmates in adult prisons, supervising parolees and offenders who are on community orders and providing alternate treatment, strategies and programmes to incarceration.

Other activities planned for Probation After-care Services Week include an information walk today in Allman Town and Fletchers Land communities, community service order projects tomorrow and a client exposition on Thursday.

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