News day / Commissioner of Prisons Gerard Wilson yesterday said 95 per cent of those incarcerated would one day be released and returned to society.
Therefore, the goal of the Prison Service was not just to “warehouse” prisoners but to help them become citizens who would positively contribute to society.
He said people just wanted to “lock up” prisoners, and build more prisons and police stations, but if the lives and thinking of those individuals were unchanged by the end of their sentence, then the Prison Service failed in their duty.
“So what do you want us to do? You want us to really lock them up and throw away the key to come back out to society probably worse than they came in? We have a job to do and we have to look at behaviour modification.”
He also encouraged adults to pay attention to the youths, or else he believed this country would lose another generation.
Wilson made the statements yesterday at the launch of Making Waves: How the West Indies Shaped the US by Debbie Jacob at the Port of Spain Prison on Frederick Street, Port of Spain.
He said it was a perfect place for Jacob to launch her book because she continually struggled and fought to make a difference to the inmates or “clients” of the prison and by extension the country. On behalf of the clients and staff of the prison, he also expressed appreciation and love for Jacob who he considered to be one of the many unsung heroes of TT, and wished her success.
He thanked and praised the prison officers for “taking straw and making gold”, and who function despite the challenges of their jobs.
He added that this year, on the 180th anniversary of the Prison Service, a “180 degree turn” was planned.
“It is an about turn of the face of the TT Prison Service. For far too long we have been hidden, for far too long we have been unrecognised, for far too long we have been criticised, sometimes with valid reasons but most of the time the public (does not) understand what we go through on a daily basis.”
He encouraged the staff to continue to toil because at the end of it he believed they would make a difference. He also told the “clients” he was confident they could change and make a difference in TT.