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

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 second event was held on Wednesday 24th November, 2010 at the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel, Mount Irvine, Tobago.

The initiative was privileged to receive the support of the Tobago House of Assembly, Department of Social Services and Gender Affairs with overwhelming participation from the Tobago Pastors and Ministers Association.

Approximately 105 persons from faith based organisations, community based organisations, CURB, Prison Fellowship, the Prisons Service, Probation Services and other departments of the THA 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 with Holy Trinity Brompton, Alpha International and the charity, Caring for Ex-Offenders, in the UK.

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.

The local presenter was Mr. Adrian Alexander, President of the local Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO) as well as President of Caribbean Umbrella Body for Restorative Behaviour (CURB).

Mr. Alexander stated that the CFEO model has been modified for use in this country to take into account the unique cultural and other dynamics of our people. In particular, emphasis will be placed on empowering ex-offenders to take responsibility for their actions, make amends to their primary and secondary victims and become active participants in strengthening the national community.

He indicated that a networking of faith based organisations to assist ex-offenders in their safe reintegration was an essential component to add to the Cabinet approved Turning Of The Hearts programme to treat with re-offending by ex-offenders.

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 were encouraged to register with CURB to form part of a national NGO/CBO directory to lend support to faith based organisations.

Participation in this CFEO Training Day allowed CURB an opportunity to share the work we do with a wider audience through the mini Restorative Justice Exhibition which formed part of the event.

This RJ Exhibition allowed several participating NGOs to display their brochures and other promotional materials for the benefit of the State and faith based representatives who attended the Training Day.

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.