Amid the social upheavals causing countless distresses in the country, Minister for Equity and Social Affairs Joachim Henry says there are programmes in place to help young people better integrate into society and to engender social cohesion in the communities.
And cognizant of the communal malaise affecting young persons, in particular , Henry attests to the need for making the effort ‘to rescue our community …even if it’s one person at a time’, amidst this worrisome lawlessness.
While acknowledging the recent overseas trip undertaken by a ward from the Boys Training Centre (BTC) to attend an overseas personal development and skills program, the minister said, he supports such initiatives as the ministry sets out to deliver some enterprising projects to benefit young people.
“We are about to roll out some micro-enterprise for a few inmates …using some young men who left Bordelais (Correctional Facility) and who may be interested in undertaking small business ventures. The St Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF) will provide the resources for that to happen, so we are looking at one pillar at a time to support and contribute to change,” Henry told reporters recently on his way to parliament.
He added, “I feel it is initiatives like these that needs to be embraced, and that must be celebrated. So, we will continue to play our part.”
Henry also took umbrage with the local banking sector and its modus operandi, stating that, he was particularly concerned with the financial entities’ hesitancy to provide financial assistance through loans to the less privileged persons.
He notes that while the ministry has rolled out some business projects to attract prospective participants, however, “with our banking sector it is difficult to get poor persons to be part of the banking sector …and a lot of our poor people are not part of it. It is difficult for them to get a loan, it is difficult for them to go (and) get started.
“So, when a young man leaves Bordelais, and he has aspirations, he wants to turn his life around …we at the Ministry of Equity believe that we must provide an opportunity to inspire young men at Bordelais that you do not have to be a repeat offender,” Henry said.
Director of the BCF, Hilary Herman has stated that more than 45% of inmates are repeat offenders or recidivists. He said it was necessary for the state to put programs in place that will help mould these persons into becoming or aspiring to be more productive citizens.
He adds that the ‘missing link’ in the rehabilitation process- involves the reintegration of inmates into society after serving their time at the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF).
“The reintegration piece which is the missing link in our Bordelais Correctional Facility – that doesn’t exist,” stated Herman.
He said the rate of recidivism is appalling, “And where it shows itself is when we have forty-seven individuals returning to the facility between March 26th and July 30th. With forty-seven individuals returning to the facility, which means that they have been to Bordelais at least twice.”
Herman notes that to prepare inmates for the world outside, there must be support systems in place to help provide guidance to them.
Reports indicate that there are currently 514 inmates at the BCF; 190 are male sentenced and 304 male remand. Six are male juveniles, four are female sentenced and 10 are female Remand inmates.
In this vein, Henry disclosed that with LUCELEC making a worthwhile contribution of $450,000 towards social and community development projects, “part of it will go towards having five young men…they will be selected and identified by persons in the community, and people who understand and know these individuals, who are interested in going into business. We will provide the support and the monies wholeheartedly and we will give them an opportunity,” Henry said.
He assured that despite the challenges this project may encounter, failing is not an option, as “this is a worthwhile undertaking, and it will serve as an inspiration for others.”
Henry asserted: “So we are approaching social development, and social engineering at all levels of society so that we can inspire people that there is a better tomorrow. We do not have to continue (down) this slippery slope.”
Meanwhile, in supporting the Special Prosecutor bill that was recently tabled in parliament, Henry said there were lots of irregularities with infrastructural works and reported deeds of financial mis-management that occurred in his Castries – East constituency.
Henry, a professional quantity surveyor said he was perturbed over some of the works that had been undertaken in the community.
The Castries South- East MP noted that, while not accusing anyone of financial impropriety, he is concerned about the scope of infrastructural projects going on in the community. “I am concerned as a lay person, and as a professional observing what has happened in the constituency,” he said. “There are incomplete projects, there are projects that did not receive planning approval and it’s in abeyance. There are some projects that went on and we’re not too sure whether its government or it’s a private concern that implemented the project.”