“There is darkness,” he conceded, adding that more than $15M was spent in the past two years to upgrade the system. However, he said, there had been no improvements mainly because of the extent to which the system had deteriorated over the years.
Rougier spoke yesterday at the Pre-Mother’s Day Celebration at the Women’s Prison, Golden Grove in Arouca. The function was hosted by the Soroptimist International of St Augustine and was attended by First Lady Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards.
“The prisons services have faced a number of problems and issues which occurred over a period of time but it will take time to get back on track. We are doing our best to improve conditions and standards,” Rougier said. “For the two years that I have been in office we have spent over $15M in renovating prisons facilities with a view to changing the environment and improving it. But there is so much work . . . this is the first time I am admitting that there is darkness. We are making every effort to change it,” he added.
During a recent visit to the Port-of-Spain State Prison, Madame Justice Carol Gobin, a battery of attorneys and two journalists got a first-hand view of the facility. Many inmates has described conditions there as sub-human.
The tour which lasted 90 minutes revealed that the prison had cramped cells, there is one prison guard to 300 inmates, a very poor lighting system and “smelly” blocks.
However, Rougier said yesterday that what was publicised about conditions at the prisons needed to be balanced. He said there should also be some focus on the rehabilitation programmes undertaken for inmates and the current improvement works being undertaken.
“We have rehabilitation programmes ongoing in the prisons both for men and women so that we can help them to become better individuals when they go back on the outside. In other words, we are assisting society in dealing with the crime situation and all we ask for is support from the public. We want the public to accept back into society an ex-inmate and treat that individual with respect and dignity,” Rougier said.
Junior National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said the prisons authorities were determined to educate inmates and make them better individuals. He also announced plans for programmes to educate the public on how to treat ex-inmates.
“We need to keep an open mind, an open heart. We need to educate those in society about inmates and ex-inmates, we need to eradicate the subject of stigmatisation,” Hinds said.
First Lady Ramjohn-Richards encouraged the female inmates to learn all they can while in prison so that when they are freed they can be better individuals and better equipped to handle societal issues.