This was according to Commissioner of Corrections, Terrance James, who is tackling stigma and discrimination of prison inmates head-on.
“This is one of the ways I hope to deal with it, to come into the media and sensitize the public because if the public is not aware or has no knowledge of how the prison system works, then stigma will continue,” said Commissioner James, during his appearance on “Working for You” on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. “We all know in St. Kitts-Nevis once somebody goes to prison it’s like they have been written off. But we have this saying that once a man would have paid his debt to society, he should be given a second chance.”
The Commissioner of Corrections made mention of persons who been hampered from getting a job or travelling because they have minor offences on their record. He noted that the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 of Saint Christopher and Nevis was put in place to assist in such cases. He noted that after a certain period an inmate can write to the attorney-general seeking permission for his or her records to be wiped clean.
Commissioner James is appealing to the general public to be forgiving and compassionate.
“So, if this is being done for someone who is outside of prison, we are now asking people to give an inmate a second chance because they would have paid their debt to society,” he said. “When one is sentenced by the court and they go to prison that is their punishment for the crime which they would commit. So, you should not punish them further when they would have already paid their debt to society. So, this is what has to be known to the public and for us to help remove that stigma,” he added.
Another initiative being pursued is presentations to inmates, particularly those who are due to be released from prison within a few months.
“I had conversations with the Rotary Club and one of the things that they want to do is to come and speak to inmates who would have maybe two or three more months on their sentence so that we can prepare them and show them how to prepare themselves when they are discharged back into society,” he said, noting that it is important for persons to “understand that one of these days inmates would be discharged back into society.”