Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley *File photo
Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley *File photo

Government plans to look at the current parole regime and make changes if necessary, according to Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley.

Mr Dunkley also said programmes such as the Community Service Programme run by the Department of Corrections helps to prepare inmates for their release.

Speaking at a press conference today, Mr Dunkley defended the programme after an article in last week’s The Royal Gazette.

The newspaper featured an article about convicted child molested Tewolde Selassie who is a participant in the programme.

He was convicted in 2007 of breaking into the window of a 15-year-old girl and raping her.

Last week, Selassie was doing supervised work across the street from the mother’s home. The girl does not live with her.

Today, Mr Dunkley said prisoners give back to the community by working at homes, churches, schools and public parks.

The initiative has also saved Government money.

He also said the positives of the programme were “overshadowed” by the mother’s concerns, and he sympathized with the family.

“The Commissioner of Corrections and the men and women of the Department are sensitive, professional people who work every day to strike the necessary balance in running prisons.

“This incident is the result of a genuine fault in the system and where there are flaws in the system then it is the responsibility of the Government to address them.

“Policies and programmes must be implemented in ways that inspire public confidence.

“We may not get everything right but we have a responsibility to reduce the risk of getting it wrong.

“This case demonstrates the need for our systems to always exercise care and to always stay in tune with public sentiment.”

Mr Dunkley continued: “With the Commissioner of Corrections, we will tighten-up the assessment that surrounds inmate deployment on community service and how we might better insulate victims and their families from having the relive the horror of the crime.

“What we cannot do is end the programme. Too much success is at stake to simply shelve the initiative because of adverse publicity.”

Mr Dunkley said it was important to note that just because an inmate is eligible for parole doesn’t mean it will automatically be granted.

Last year, the Parole Board reviewed 131 cases and 32 inmates were released.

Mr Dunkley also said it was the PLP who changed the parole eligibility from half to one-third.

“The imposition of long sentences with recommendations on parole eligibility is a message to us as legislators and it is a message we must heed.

“Please be assured that the review of the parole regime is a priority for the Ministry of Public Safety and the Government.”

Addressing questions from the media, Mr Dunkley said: “The point I want to get across is that it's fine to lock people up but 99 percent of all people incarcerated come out some day and we have to prepare those people to come out and be productive people.

“If we’re going to incarcerate those people and not allow them to take advantage of those programmes, they’re going to be back in prison again.”