RJ Week 2010 – Communities Caring for Ex-Offenders: Trinidad

For our observance of R.J. Week 2010, CURB supported an initiative of the local NGO, Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO) to host 2 national training events for faith based and community based leaders to enable them to safely support ex-prisoners in their communities.

The first event was held on Monday 22nd November, 2010 at the Prisons Training College, Bandoo Avenue, Tumpuna Road, Arima in the island of Trinidad.

The initiative was privileged to receive the support of the Trinidad and Tobago Prisons Service, the Penal Reform and Transformation Unit, Prison Fellowship Trinidad and Tobago and the Council of Prison Chaplains and Ministers!

Approximately 160 persons from the Prisons Service, Probation Services, various prison ministries, faith based and community based organisations converged to listen to speakers from the United Kingdom and Trinidad and Tobago.

The UK presenters, led by Ms. Merilyn Wilson, shared with local stakeholders the Caring for Ex-Offenders model of aftercare which originated in the UK with Holy Trinity Brompton, Alpha International and the charity, Caring for Ex-Offenders.

The success of the model in that country to dramatically reduce rates of re-offending through faith based mentoring and support has led to it being endorsed by Home Office, Police and other officials in the UK. As recently as July, 2010 Caring for Ex-Offenders was one of 7 charities (amongst nearly 500 applicants) to receive an award for effective poverty fighting by the Centre for Social Justice in the UK.

The model as used in the UK is complemented with programmes for ex-offenders and other church members to address family challenges, drug counselling and financial management, all from a biblical perspective.

The CFEO model is now in use in parts of the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Singapore and now Trinidad and Tobago.

Local presenters included Mr. Adrian Alexander, President of the local Caring for Ex-Offenders (as well as Chairman of the Board of CURB), Mr. Gordon Husbands of the Penal Reform and Transformation Unit, Mrs. Jacinta Bailey-Sobers of the Ministry of the People and Social Development, Ms. Claire Blandin of the Probation Division of the Ministry of Justice and Mr. Richard Barker of New Hope Prison Ministry.

Churches which are interested in working with ex-offenders are encouraged to register with CFEO at their website. Those which do so shall be included in a national directory and shall receive training for their members in mentoring ex-offenders and other core skills in the new year.

Community based and non-governmental organisations which wish to work with ex-offenders are encouraged to register with CURB to form part of a national NGO/CBO directory to lend support to faith based organisations.

As part of this CFEO Training Day, a Restorative Justice Exhibition was held which involved various State and non-State agencies putting their materials and promotional literature on display and engaging in networking with those present.

CURB looks forward to working along with CFEO and other organisations in the new year towards developing minimum standards of training for volunteers to work with offenders as well as ex-offenders and their families.