ACHCPS held its now biennial conference at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica June 11-14, 2018. Over the course of the conference there were over 80 participants with 8 of those being Heads of Service for Caribbean Countries. Heads of Police, Customs and other Caribbean leaders also attended the conference offering presentations and comments throughout.
Transforming Directions: As a group during the past decade ACHCPS members agreed to begin promoting a theme of “From Prisons to Corrections” and generally moving from punitive to rehabilitative and reentry supportive programs. While that theme may not sound very profound it really does signal a major shift in attitude, values and beliefs for those Heads of Corrections who have taken it to heart and worked to promote what it can mean to their government’s leaders and citizens. Many of the Heads of Corrections from the Caribbean have sought to follow the results of ‘evidence based’ findings that lead away from a strict emphasis on ‘punishment and retribution’ to also embrace ‘what works’ for improving the behavior and lives of criminal offenders.
Following that direction has more recently also shown regional interest in considering the benefits of correctional services that go beyond prison confinement to develop a ‘community corrections’ component. Promising findings about the higher rates of success and reduced recidivism for criminal supervision that is based in the community instead of totally relying on prison confinement may now be acceptable in the region where it was formerly not even considered. In recent years the ACHCPS membership has witnessed the rise of this same belief and principle as the ICPA and its North American Chapter where prison is seen as the ‘last resort’ rather than the first choice for criminal justice sentencing options.
While not many Caribbean countries have established strong community corrections systems there is an expressed interest in doing just that. The question, of course, is often where you start, how do you structure the system, who are the right partners, how do you engage the community, courts, etc.
Conference Focus: “Transforming Prisons and Correctional Services for Regional Development” was the 2018 theme. Ms. Ina Hunter-Fairweather, the Commissioner of Corrections for Jamaica hosted the event while John Nurse, Head of the Barbados Prison Service, President of ACHCPS, and Board Member for the International Corrections and Prison Association North America (ICPA-NA), presided over the conference ensuring that all content and discussions were consistent with the Association’s mission which focuses on professional development for all Corrections personnel and ensuring that best policies and procedures are in place for individual and regional corrections services. Further, embedded in their objectives are human rights, developing and distributing relevant research and information for improving corrections, establishing standards and staff training. Of note with a special emphasis by members is “…developing rehabilitative and post release programmes that contribute to a reduction in recidivism.”
The International Corrections and Prisons Association’s North American chapter organized three workshops:
Community Corrections: A Viable Option. Presenters included Dr. Reginald Wilkinson, ICPA founding and current member and former Director for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections and Jasmine Verge, Associate District Director of the Atlantic Region – Correctional Services Canada. The workshop was facilitated by Diane Williams, Member ICPA Board and ICPA NA President. Bob Goble, ICPA Treasurer and ICPA NA Board Member, provided an overview of the International Corrections and Prisons Association mission, objectives and strategic plan.
Strategies for Managing Violent and Vulnerable was presented by Dr. Wilkinson.
Strategies for Identifying and Managing Radicalization in Correctional Settings which was presented by Pedro das Neves, CEO of IPS_Innovative Prison Systems, a criminal justice advisor for several international organizations, and a member of ICPA.
All attendees worked hard. The ACHCPS Conference host, Jamaica Corrections Services, ensured that participants had an opportunity to experience Caribbean culture. The food, music, and hospitality were the best!
The above noted presentations and all other conference presentations were well received.
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