Excerpts from the second edition ofDignityof the IndividualInternational CUREphotos by Alan Pogue
Contents • Significant Social Development Programs • Inadequate Social DevelopmentOvercrowding Inhumane conditions Violence and crime • Reform Recommendations
A high percentage of persons incarcerated are: - the poor, - with least education, - with least job skills, and - from racial and ethnic minority communities.
Many incarcerated persons have also been afflicted with: - family dysfunction, - learning disabilities, - mental illness, - addiction, or - other handicaps.
Our prisons can be schools for either • Anti-Social Development • OR • Restorative Social Development
SignificantRestorativeProgramsextracts from the evaluations of each country
Economic self-sufficiency of those released is a pre-requisite to reducing crime and subsequent government expense. • Therefore, job-oriented training is a first foundation of any solution to this problem.
Corrective social development often must also include: - alcohol or drug treatment, - remedial education, - life skills development, and - physical and mental health.
Central to the dignity of every human person is engagement in work that reinforces that dignity and makes it possible for the worker to engage with others in shaping the life of the community.
The needs of the incarcerated for restorative approaches are too often ignored. • Nevertheless, Some very good rehabilitation and reentry programs exist in many countries, as illustrated in the samples cited below.
Belize: Hattieville prison has a five step rehabilitative and educational program. This program includes a life skills training program, as well as agriculture classes, computer programming classes and parenting skills classes. (a state-sponsored program)
Columbia. Before his release from Picalea prison, Jose David Toro created a "Peace Laboratory" to help prepare inmates "for life outside prison through a combination of psychological, educational, and creative support programs." Emphasis was placed on developing work skills, with volunteers teaching inmates accounting and how to start small businesses. (a privately sponsored program with cooperation of the state)After his release, he founded the Horizons of Freedom Foundation with a group of 42 prisoners, former prisoners, and family members of Picalea inmates. "He has succeeded in creating one place in the whole nation where left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary members coexist in peace- in prison, no less."
El Salvador: Prisons have work, education and recreation programs, for a minority of prisoners.Educational opportunities, besides occupational workshops (carpentry, bakery, tailoring, etc), would generally include grades 1-9, though high school is occasionally available, usually by correspondence.(state-sponsored programs)
Ecuador: Ximena Costales rehabilitates prisoners in Ecuador through self-employment training and the establishment of small businesses. Her approach virtually eliminates recidivism while sowing the seeds of self-employment in poor communities. After learning how to read and write, prisoners are given at least 40 hours of instruction in basic management, total quality management, and higher-level business techniques. (a privately sponsored program with cooperation of the state)
Mexico: Programa Alternativas a la Violencia – México, is currently working with the inmates of one of Mexico City’s eight correctional facilities, the North Men’s Prison. In participatory exercises, the program experientially teaches incarcerated persons how to cope with everyday conflict, based on principles like thinking before reacting, confidence in self, and empathy for the other.Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops have been conducted in the prisons or communities of at least eight OAS countries, including Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the United States. (a privately sponsored program with cooperation of the state)
Uruguay: One very fine example is the work of Virginia Varela Dubra. In summary, Her work starts in the prison, where she provides counseling, private tutoring, and off-site vocational training . Having proven the effectiveness of her approach in Montevideo's largest juvenile detention center, Dubra is increasing her organization to include eight additional prisons in Uruguay, with plans to use her existing network to spread elements of her work throughout Latin America. (a privately sponsored program with cooperation of the state)
Brazil: An exceptional program is NAAVIS – Núcleo de Articulações e Atividades Vertentes à Inclusão Social , a non-profit civil society organization, which operates a participatory model for social reintegration of jailed youths in Ceará, Brazil. NAAVIS starts with a diagnosis on the needs and interests of that prison community. Next, partner organizations provide services that meet said needs, including training and technical / pedagogical assistance. The NAAVIS model is being disseminated in four Brazilian States. (a privately sponsored program with cooperation of the state)
United States • Prisons reportedly have fewer work, education and recreation programs today than they had 20 years ago. • Nevertheless, more than 85,000 prisoners are now attending college courses (mostly job oriented).
United States: The Peter Young Housing, Industry, Treatment program is a comprehensive reentry-assistance process. Operating in five cities in New York State, it provides:- Alternatives to incarceration, - Transitional and permanent housing, - Alcohol and drug treatment services, - Halfway houses and supportive living, - Vocational job training . culinary arts, . motel and restaurant operations, . building maintenance and. computer applications, - Job placement, and - Job retention and job coaching services.(a privately sponsored program, using funds from state-programs)
Canada. LifeLine is a partnership between Correctional Service Canada (CSC), National Parole Board (NPB) and non-government organizations. It's about long-term offenders -- lifers -- who have successfully re-integrated into the community for at least five years and who are recruited to help other lifers throughout their sentences. Life Line involves lifers on parole assisting other lifers; it encompasses a partnership between offenders, community agencies, and government correctional services; and it includes several community-based agencies across Canada, each independent of the other but who share the same goals.(a state-sponsored program)
Key Problems.Examination of the country-evaluations leads to the following observations and identification of key problems.
Official figures show that 18 OAS countries have prison populations that exceed 120% of capacity, ranging up to 184% for Haiti and 302% for Barbados. • Nine countries have incarceration rates above 300 prisoners per 100,000 citizens.
Overcrowding inevitably consumes nearly all resources. Little is left for social development programs, sanitation, hygiene, and food. The result is increased disorder, violence, and corruption.
By official figures, ten OAS countries have more than 50% of their prisoners as pre-trial detainees. • Slow processing of criminal cases and inadequate defense attorneys lead to systemic violation of due process rights.
Many American prisons of all sizes and security levels provide inadequate food, general health care, and mental health care. • Many fail to meet basic needs such as sanitary facilities and mattresses.
Antigua and Barbuda: The prison did not have toilet facilities, and slop pails were used in 122 cells. Prison staff complained anonymously to the press about a reported increase in the number of prisoners who had HIV/AIDS and charges that certain inmates were made into "sex slaves" by other prisoners.
Bolivia: A major problem, in addition to insufficient food and overcrowding, is the lack of medical services. To begin with, there is a lack of sanitation and hygienic facilities. Another big health problem is drug and alcohol abuse. Prisoners with money can get permission for outside medical treatment. Inmates who could pay had access to drugs and alcohol. Of the country's 14 jails, 5 did not have doctors or provide medical assistance.
Brazil: The prisons do not provide adequate health care for prisoners. Some prisons have no doctors; some do not have enough doctors and/or nurses. Some doctors rarely show up to work. Prenatal care is almost nonexistent. Treatment is delayed; there’s always a shortage of medicine.
Mexico: Abuses include inmates having to purchase food and medicine, coercion, violence, drugs and arms trafficking, bribery, and lack of control by officials to the point that inmates were exercising authority over them.
Nicaragua: A report by a human rights group in 1992 accused the government of inexcusable indifference because it failed to allocate adequate funds. The prisoners were described as suffering from lack of food, clothing, medicine, and medical treatment. Cases of malnutrition were found as well as contaminated water.
Venezuela: Prison conditions were harsh due to scarce resources, poorly trained and corrupt prison staff, and violence by guards and inmates. Inmates often had to pay guards and other inmates to obtain necessities such as space in a cell, a bed, and food.