Home News Local news Parole Board Nominees Say Inmate Rehabilitation Is Critical

Parole Board Nominees Say Inmate Rehabilitation Is Critical

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Nov. 9, 2006 — More emphasis needs to be placed on rehabilitating inmates within the local corrections system before they can be released, nominees to the V.I. Parole Board said during a Rules Committee hearing held Thursday morning.
"During the nine years that I've been on the Parole Board, I saw quite a few inmates that come up for parole, and 90 percent of them are seventh-, eighth- or ninth-graders who have dropped out of school," said Antonio Acevedo, whose renomination for a second term on the board was unanimously approved during Thursday's meeting.
He added that when younger inmates come up for parole without being given opportunities to "better themselves" while incarcerated, they run the risk of "going right back to jail."
To combat these cases of recidivism, Acevedo suggested that there be more of a link between the Parole Board and the Bureau of Corrections. "When individuals are approved for parole, they are released within three to five days," he explained. "What I would like to see, is that instead of being released right away, the individual be given some time to receive some kind of on-the-job training, or be able to participate in educational programs offered by Corrections, before they can be released."
Acevedo said that the local community will continue to "spin its wheels" unless inmates can prove that they have the ability to "become productive citizens."
"This is a subject that we have to look at closely," added Melville G. Samuel, whose renomination to the Parole Board was also unanimously approved on Thursday. He explained that inmates serving time on the mainland are given the opportunity to obtain a high school diploma or college degree.
"It's those kinds of things that help us determine whether or not to let them go," Samuel said. "But those opportunities are not afforded to inmates down here."
The need to rehabilitate juvenile offenders was also discussed by Superior Court Judge Audrey L. Thomas during another Rules Committee hearing held Thursday evening. While the suggestions offered by both Acevedo and Samuel were geared toward working with individuals already within the prison system, Thomas emphasized the need for more preventive measures.
"The school year has just begun, and we've already had to deal with quite a few incidents," she said. "And sending these kids to the Youth Rehabilitation Center is just a temporary fix. We still have to get to the bottom of why one youngster has to fight one another just because of issues such as where they live. We really have to nip these things in the bud and rehabilitate the youth that come through the system."
Thomas, whose nomination to serve as the judge of the Family Court Division on St. Thomas was unanimously approved by the committee during Thursday night's meeting, said she often deals with repeat offenders and is "disheartened" when a student appears before her "four or five times."
"And while the court right now is behind the eight ball in terms of reform, there are ways that we can start rehabilitating them right now," she said, suggesting that juvenile offenders be given a reasonable number of community service hours which allow them give back to society, while still being able to complete school assignments and spend time with family members.
She also suggested that juveniles be given educational tasks, such as writing essays. "This is what we need — alternative ways of dealing with the young people," Thomas said.
All three nominees also discussed the need to properly treat mentally ill inmates. "This is one of our biggest challenges," Thomas said. "In some cases, these individuals don't have any place to go, so the court, with the assistance of the attorneys, has to get together and determine how this person can continue to survive within a community where so little attention is given to the mentally ill."
Earlier in the day, Samuel explained that "nothing is being locally done to care for the mentally ill."
"It's time now for there to be a program where these individuals can be helped," he said.
All three nominations were forwarded to the full Senate body for final approval and will be up for consideration during a session scheduled in December.
Present during Thursday's meetings were Sens. Lorraine L. Berry, Roosevelt David, Liston Davis, Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Louis P. Hill, Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Ronald E. Russell.
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