Thursday, 18 November 2010

Ex-Prison Inmates: Condemned Forever or Rehabilitation?

Gibraltar likes to boast about the enormous improvements that we have seen in the last quarter century: beautification projects, affordable housing, growing economy, state of the art air terminal, dual carriageways, tunnels etc. Is this the only way that we should be measuring our success as a community? I think not. One of the most important criteria by which a community should judge itself by is how it treats its less fortunate members. There are many in Gibraltar. I would like to concentrate on one group ex-prison inmates.

Ex-inmates have been punished by serving their term of imprisonment. On release, the main problem that they face is not finding anyone who is willing to employ them. Having a job helps to give a person an identity, to become self sufficient and to start to regain his dignity. It boosts self confidence and esteem. Without a job the person feels worthless and unable to fend for himself and his family. The likelihood of re-offending increases and in a large majority of cases becomes an inevitability. The result is a return to prison and the awful cycle begins again.

There is no doubt that these persons often do not help themselves. This is not a reason that the doors of employment should be closed to them. It is more reason to make a greater effort to help them into employment and provide them with the necessary support so that they can remain in employment. Easier said than done? Yes, of course but that is an argument to make a bigger effort to help them not to ignore them. Often these recidivists are the product of difficult family circumstances coming from broken homes, with a history of alcohol or drugs abuse at home etc. They need a leg up and they need understanding, and guess what, Gibraltar has the advantage that the problem in numbers not being that big, so it should be possible to give personalised and targeted help.

Is there a solution? Certainly my information is that most ex-inmates seek but cannot find employers who will take them on. The will exists on their part to work. What they need is the opportunity. If employers do not volunteer the openings, then some encouragement or cajoling is required. We are not talking of highly qualified individuals. We are talking, in the main, about persons who can be employed as labourers or unskilled workers on construction sites or in the service sector.

How does one encourage or cajole an employer to employ ex-inmates? The government offers the private sector a large amount of business. I am sure it is not beyond the realms of possibility to use this as an incentive for employers in the private sector, mainly in the construction sector, to employ some of these ex-inmates. It cannot and need not be a condition for being eligible for tendering for government contracts but it would not be difficult to make it widely known that this might be well looked upon in deciding who a contract will be granted to. This is especially relevant now at a time that the government has announced that it will be spreading construction work more widely amongst local companies.

It is important that having been to prison should not be seen as a fast track to employment. This is a question of careful management but the numbers involved are not so large as to warrant such criticism of a scheme to help ex-inmates into employment. Every successful re-integration of an ex-inmate into society by giving him gainful employment brings with it the benefit of one less repeat offender. In turn this reduces the cost to society on many fronts, not only the cost of imprisoning the individual over and over again but also the cost to victims of crime by reducing the number of repeat offenders.

It may seem an unachievable ideal. Undoubtedly the suggestion is open to ridicule and criticism but we are a small enough community that is sufficiently wealthy to try it and keep trying it until it works for one person, then a second and then for many more. We would lose very little and we would gain another measure by which our community could be judged as a caring and better community than others.


  1. Since we are more British then the British perhaps we should try a copy part of their system and try to help prisoners to help themselves and others.
    Education & Training
    Most prisoners have access to educational courses and training while in prison. The objective is to help them gain skills and qualifications that help them find employment when they are released. Research has shown that prisoners who gain employment after release are much less likely to re-offend.
    These courses are run by the Offenders' Learning and Skills Unit, which was established in April 2001 to improve the quality and quantity of learning skills in prison.

    Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan
    Reducing crime and public protection are top priorities for the Government. Crime can have a devastating effect on the lives of victims, families and communities with extraordinary costs to society as a whole.
    This Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan fulfils the Government’s commitment to reduce re-offending.
    It aims to address concerns raised by the Social Exclusion Unit’s report on Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners (new window) and takes forward two important Government manifesto commitments:
    • to ensure that punishment and rehabilitation are both designed to minimize re-offending
    • to improve the education of those offenders in custody
    Over sixty national action points have been agreed across Government, covering all the key areas, or pathways, to support the rehabilitation of offenders, in a concerted effort to reduce re-offending. For each agreed action point, the Plan suggests complementary activity for the consideration of those working at the regional and local level.
    There will be a particular focus on the resettlement of offenders receiving custodial sentences but there is also important action specifically directed at the needs of those sentenced in the community.
    The Plan will build on the good progress which has been made, and support the radical changes which we are making to reduce re-offending through the creation of a National Offender Management Service (NOMS). A complementary strategy is being developed in Wales, led by the Prison and Probation Services and the Welsh Assembly Government.

    Date: Thu Jul 01 00:00:00 BST 2004

  2. I agree with both Robert and the other above blogger. What should come first is the education and training whilst in custody and then employment after is easier to obtain and easier for the government to be in a position to find some employment for ex-inmates. It is very unfortunate that in Gibraltar currently there does not exist any type of rehabiliation in prison. one would hope that now that a new prison is functioning that a proper and well organised rehabiliation programme is in place.

  3. Another thought provoking piece LW and another issue that in the main is ignored and brushed under the carpet.

    I myself know of someone who has done a spell at Her Majesty`s pleasure and is trying desperately hard to get back on the right track with no success in the job department. To make matters worse the state benefit he receives is a pittance and in no way covers basics such as food and rent. So not only is there little assistance in finding employment, the state assistance in itself just adds to the temptation of reverting to old ways.

    More needs to be done to help inmates prospects of employment once they have completed their sentence with education training and possibly work experience schemes were inmates have the opportunity to prove their worth to prospective employers.

  4. Fred says:

    I agree that training and education in prison is a must, probably from resources within the Department of Education; and, how about in addition giving employers in Gibraltar the opportunity to "sponsor/mentor" a convict while in prison? This may build trust over time. This could be followed by employment, partially subsidised by government in lieu of benefits.

    Just thinking aloud really...

    I still think that at heart we are a charitable bunch, despite our differences, and this could work.

  5. Ghost says:

    Is this coincidence or have you been advising Govt on policy here.

    Great piece btw.


  6. Excellent bleeding heart liberal stuff; bit don't forget the victims of crime.

  7. Great idea Fred..

    Your suggestion of a `sponsor`/mentor` is something along the lines of my suggestion of `work experience shemes` where inmates would have the opportunity of building relationships and contacts with prospective employers.

  8. Just read the Chronic article. All very well and good and hats off to the minister for the initiative and effort but the article in no way addresses what opportunitites are available to inmates to prepare themselves for an honest life on the outside.

    Are there any opportunities available or is it just an endless cycle of chores and another game of tablita ? Anyone know ?

  9. Anonymous at 18:45

    Of course we have to consider victims also.

    On the other side the fewer repeat offenders, the fewer the victims. Looking after ex-inmates is not to the exclusion of victims' rights.

  10. Hi Robert

    I work outside the Criminal Justice machinery, however this latest article sets out the inherent weaknesses present in our quasi judicial political system. Perhaps local politicians should read your blog more often and turn your articles into electoral policies.

    Well done.

  11. Ghost says:

    Robert I've been out this evening. To be honest i was aware of your following, but I have returned impressed.

    It seems that there are many other than myself who indeed follow your banter and who form the opinion that you represent the accountable media that is so desired and is so relevant in Gibraltar today. I found myself fighting the LW line and agreeing that you do indeed provide debate; so required in such a highly political community with so much to say on issues of the day. I say all of this with respect of course.

    In short Robert - thank you! This is a tough statement for me to make in any forum, my charcater is not parcial to these sorts of graces, but there you go, here's the weekend bumper for you. My acknowledgement of this and that you provide sound and objective debate on matters of the day is much more than can be said about our main stream media.

    Interesting about my evenings outing was the fact that there were those that thought you played a great devils advocate.....for whom you might ask? A split vote on this one (you'll be glad to know), my view was that rigid though you are, you are still able to see the bigger picture...:)


  12. Fred says:

    Anon 18:45 has a point, perhaps part of the rehabilitation should be to have criminals face their victims.

    I would also ask: are there crimes for which a person is "condemned" by society forever? I have to be honest and say that I would baulk at the thought of employing a paedophile, a wife beater, someone guilty of acts of extreme violence, etc.

    Obviously a tough subject. I am sure that the Minister for Justice and his team will address this in due course as he has done with much else - credit where credit is due.

  13. Hands Wrung: People who have made mistakes in their lives and have repented or have offended because of pressure of external circumstances deserve all the help that society can provide to them but not all people who go through the prison sytem are victims of circumstances. Let us be careful that we don't put people who have chosen the path of crime over poor working class people who struggle without resorting to crime. I also agree that whenever there is a debate about the reform of prisoners it should come with the caveat that the victims of crime should always come first.

  14. Ghost

    Thank you, I have statistics so I know how wide my readership is, nearly the same as some circulating mainstream newspapers.

    I am glad of the split vote. I make a huge effort to give my own honest opinion without any party bias. If the opposition did the same without constantly taking extreme contrarian views for the sake of it they would be doing Gibraltar a great service and by enhancing their chances of election, doing something to improve democracy.

    The polarisation of politics in Gibraltar around two personalities, presently Caruana and Bosanno, is what needs to be broken. It will not be broken by simply changing the identity of the leaders of each party. The polarisation will simply be repeated with new faces. A more fundamental institutional change is required. This change is resisted by the political classes, so it is unlikely to happen. In the meantime it is Gibraltar that suffers the consequences.

  15. gibraltar's society and system isn't cut out to meet todays real worlds dilemas . inmates don't stand a chance , unfortunately . even if they deservedly serve their time inside .small story from this last week .

    man serving 7 month period inside . this last thursday he had a work tribunal , goverment employee , which decides to kick him out of work . he comes out this next saturday . out to what ?

    i feel for his 8 month pregnant girlfried .

    although gibraltar has made huge advances it still lags behind on a lot of issues , especially basic ones .

    thanks , over and OUT

  16. Referring to what Fred said, I think that clearly there are crimes that should not qualify for the sponsorship/employment scheme point blank. Obviously the nature of the offence would be considered when relocating back into the market and appropriate employment sought.

    Even though these people would have served their sentences, the offer of consequent employment has its own consequences. What about the law-abiding people on the dole? Would a short spate in prison increase their chances of employment? These are desperate times for many, and a prison record might not concern someone who needs to feed his family, pay bills etc. What message would we be sending here?

    Maybe an additional contribution to society (either financial or by way of community service) and over and above the sentence served, would help to redress the balance. And maybe act as a deterrent to those who might be tempted to commit crimes for a potential future benefit.

    Needless to say, I believe the system proposed by LW is a positive way forward that will reverse what is a downward spiral for many individuals and also for Gibraltar as a whole. Good one Robert.

    It would have a high chance of success in our small, loving and nurturing community. Over time, I am sure any critics would be won over.

  17. Thanks Robert, thank you. Before Llanito World I went through life in complete ignorance of everything that mattered. Work, golf, nights out with the lads at the bank and trips to La Cañoda with the wife, growing a goatee for charity, Man U and that sort of thing was all I thought of. Now you have opened my eyes to lack of accountability, the rights of minorities, the bad influence of Christians, Caruana's arrogance, judicial independence and a million other topics neither I nor anyone in Gibraltar that I know had ever before seriously considered. You have brought Gibraltar into the 21st Century and deserve not only THANKS but also some recognition. I think that LW should be recommended reading in all our schools. Thanks, Good one Robert, Thank you very much. Cheers Tom.

  18. Anonymous at 16:57

    I just cannot believe how empty and bereft your life was. I am so overjoyed that I have enlightened you so much ...

  19. RVJW
    Your Blog is the best wide-ranging Gibraltarian info freely open to discussions without fear of being castigated by the GSD Government unfortunately not everybody has a computer to take advantage of your LLanito world and there’s no Spanish version of what is said perhaps Gibraltar daily or weekly newspaper could dedicate a few pagers which I am sure will increase their sales.

  20. Ghost says:

    Robert, I think you know by now that I do not disagree with your views and that I accept your arguments as well intentioned and in the best interests of democracy.

    Our system may not technically be as transparent as you might like but it does afford us many freedoms, not least the freedom of speech and right of opinion. I will not enter into further debate on the executive and your concerns on the lack of legislative power over it as we are not likely to agree. However, I would concur with your comment in regard to the oppositions contrarian style of play on almost anything, it most definitely does nothing for their plight to win an election. What concerns the most, is that their crusade to discredit and oppose all and which delivers absolutely no effective accountability therefore reflecting abysmally on our democracy; this has led to 15 years of regressive politics on the part of good checks and balances, a period of which Gibraltar has been robbed of an opposition with a capacity to at the least create policy and offer real alternatives.

    With respect, you may argue that Bossano and Caruana are the root cause of our social polarization; nevertheless I do not think that you can quite place them in the same category. One has led Gibraltar for 15 years and won (democratically) four elections, the other has lost four successive elections and single handedly prevented Gib from having any other choice after over 40 years in politics; polarization is and was inevitable.

    On a lighter note, you must be delighted at the fact that you are saving souls like anon 16:57 from Golf, shopping in La Canada, parties with the bank - one might be forgiven for thinking that he was on a role (bar la canada)...! RV you can sleep easy now...:)


  21. Quill said..........

    There are many decent and law abiding citizens who due to circumstance have had a hard upbringing with poor education and hence start their working lives with great dissadvantages. These very people who come from humble origins have families to feed as well, yet most persevere and struggle against all odds, without resorting to criminal activity. Until that is all hope is lost!

    These are the very people in our society to whom we should be extending our hands to help, so that we as a society can get them out of the hole they find themselves in with dignity.

    However society (yes even in Gibraltar) turns a blind eye to such social cases. So quite frankly to even contemplate in how best to help criminals, by educating them and finding them employment, before solving the genuine social cases that still exist in Gibraltar, is getting our priorities all wrong.

    I'm not saying that we shouldn't help certain categories of criminals back into mainstream society, but what we should be doing first is preventing individuals from falling into criminal activities precisly because society itself hasn't given them a helping hand at all.

    If you are sent to prison it is because you have committed a crime against society and need to be punished for it. At the same time society needs to be protected from the criminal. Once interned the criminal should be rehabilitated through education by all means, but the last thing you want is for everyone who may be in dire straits to become a criminal, simply because he/she is guaranteed both an education and employment as well when released. Please let's get real.

    Criminals should pay for their crimes and for their own keep. In many cases they are better off inside than out, with colour TV, recreational facilities, gym, library etc. The whole concept of doing time has become a farce to many criminals.

    Train them in different trades whilst serving in prison, but at the same time they should be made to work to repay the cost of their keep. I'm sure that that may already be happening in Gibraltar or perhaps it is more in theory than in practice.

  22. Rehabilitation for first time offenders ,yes.
    Repeated offenders should have a tough time in prison so that they do not repeat any offences again. Some sentences such as those given in the recent sex offences cases are just too lenient. Why should sentences run concurently?
    Are judges out of touch?

    PS Your blog is the best thing since sliced bread.

  23. Anon @ 23.54 raises the question whether Judges are out of touch. He / she thinks that some recent sentences have been too lenient. Judges follow pre set guidelines in sentencing and also in granting or refusing bail (another area which has caused public anxiety recently). Whether these guidelines are being followed in a common sense way is certainly an issue for careful consideration not only in discussion among concerned citizens in fori such as Llanito World but also one would expect investigation and monitoring by the Judicial Services Commission.

  24. Anonymous at 23:54 and 09:14

    Care must be taken not to interfere in the discretion that judges exercise in cases that come before them. It is easy, without being possessed with all the facts, to criticise what judges do when taking both sentencing and bail decisions.

    The facts and circumstances of each individual case and each individual person is what a judge is charged to take into account in coming to each individual bail and sentencing decision. It is legal principles and guidelines that are applied by judges, which provide an element of uniformity but these bring into play objective standards that must give way to the subjective considerations.

    My short message is beware criticisng bail and sentencing decisions unless you know ALL the facts and circumstances.

  25. I agree that offenders must be given the opportunity to rehabilitate in order to prevent reoffending. This is naturally to the benefit of the community. Job initiatives are a good idea on the whole to get re-offenders back on track but great caution must be exercised to ensure that any initiative of this sort will not be to the detriment of law abiding individuals who are currently facing unemployment. That would indeed be a grave injustice.

    Seeing as sentencing has been brought up it seems to me that part of the problem lies in the limited sentencing options open to judges. You either go to prison or serve a community order, in other words: Punishment vs Rehabilitation. There is little a judge can do to exercise his discretion to integrate both these ideals.

    It is my opinion that punishment is a vital part of sentencing, it is the way that victims and their families see justice in operation: it is the way the system is ‘seen’ to work. But we know that this alone, in the majority of cases, does not work: hence re-offending. Education of any sort whilst serving in prison will no doubt prepare prisoners for their release, but will be wasted if there is no vehicle through which they can properly reintegrate themselves. Come in Rehabilitation. There needs to be a process through which as a continuing part of their sentence ex-inmates work for the community. If this is going to be unpaid then benefits should be increased to cover the cost of basic needs: the community will be recouping this expense through the labour.

    As has been mentioned we are a small and charitable community, most of us know each other and many of us come from big families, these initiatives can work, and must work. As Robert said, what a great benchmark through which to judge our community this would be.

  26. Are our judges in Gibraltar trained to the same level as their counterparts in UK? I have read that now only QCs can apply to be judges in UK and that they need to have 20-30 years court room experience before they are able to sit on the bench of the High Court which is the equivalent of our Supreme Court. I have asked a friend who is a solicitor and he tells me that the situation in Gibraltar is totally different. He agrees with me that there is no reason why it should be different but says that experienced lawyers do not want to be judges in Gibraltar. Should we bring judges from UK? I understand that the latest recruit to the Bench is indeed a highly experienced barrister from England.

  27. Anonymous 17:09

    you might find this website useful,

    It tells you everything about UK Judges; appointments, qualifications, etc.
    I don't know what the position with Gib judges is exactly, although the new Constitution does mention judicial appointments in s57 and s62, but not in much detail.

  28. New Prison

    The view that people in prison do not deserve to be given opportunities to improve needs to be put to rest once and for all.. This argument is not about perks or compassion, but about practicalities. The Prison Service and the Ministry of Justice needs to act to formulate a cohesive educational strategy in our prison so that the efforts of the educators are not in vain. It's about time our prisons were geared for success and not just to accommodate failure.

  29. Fred says:

    What of white collar crime RV?

    What do we do with the likes of these when it's not education and training that they need?

    A lot of our (yes, I think of this forum as a community) postings until now seem to be based on the assumption that crime is the sole domain of the underprivileged in society, or may be it's just that we do not put the same effort into nailing white collar sin verguenzas. Convicts in Gibraltar with lack of economic means as motivation for crime tend to fit a narrow profile.

    Maybe it's true what they say? "Take £100 and you are a theif; take £1Mio and you are a businessman."

  30. Education in prison
    Unless you, we, society respects what it can do to change lives for the better, and invests properly to provide robust and tailored prison education programmers to meet the needs of every willing participant, there is little hope of ever reducing the appalling reoffending figures." I said that if any ex-prisoner came to live in my street I wanted him or her to be equipped and able to function positively, and not present any threat of harm or danger to my neighbors or me. "If that means providing real education for those who need it in prison, then that's what I want this is not a point-scoring competition or a political rally.
    More than two-thirds of those released will reoffend within two years. Especially the youngest, who reoffend within the first year – and probably with an escalation of seriousness, they will all have to be somebody's neighbour. Do you know that eight out of 10 people in prison have writing skills lower than those expected of an 11-year-old?" and half of all prisoners have no qualifications whatsoever do not have any skills required for 96 per cent of jobs. And only one prisoner in five is able to complete a job application form.

  31. Fred says:

    GF, what you say is probably all correct, which I think suggests that we may have to ask ourselves some questions: how do we let these individuals get to the state that they become repeat offenders? Do we, as a society, write them off early on in their lives? Are they really afforded the same opportunities?

    I see in Gibraltar a struggling middle class concentrated in the new developments, striving to keep up with everything middle class status demands, with kids who do not appreciate how much all this costs; and in the old estates a growing number who are deprived - can they really be blamed for what they do in the context of such a materialistic society, and the erosion of the values we shared as a community?

    I do not have a political axe to grind over this one, and I certainly are not making excuses for criminals, who must pay for their crimes. But, we need to look at what is really going on in places like the Upper Town area.

  32. Fred
    22 NOVEMBER 2010 18:04
    Today's generation has been so well inundated with lies from an out of control government that they can no longer tell which is up or which is down.
    They no longer have the slightest idea of what it was to be a middle class family. They are far removed from the truth that not too long ago their parents lived in a more gentile time, a time when dad worked, mom took care of the home and children, there was job security, some money in the bank and the future for their children was to live in a world that was even better than theirs.
    Well, such aspirations just never materialized.
    Helplessly and more to the point hopelessly that generation that lived in the golden age are morning the chaos their children have been forced into.
    The family of the past has become a fairy tale and treated just that way.
    A couple today that insists on calling themselves middle class because they too have a house, two cars and children on there way to college have been led to believe they are doing just fine.
    What that couple has been bamboozled into accepting is that both husband and wife must work to support what they claim is a middle class status.
    They have been disorientated into accepting that it's OK for their children to grow up without the proper supervision of either parent, its OK to be hopelessly confused in credit card debt, it's OK to live from paycheque to paycheque, it's OK to live under the constant job insecurity, it's OK etc. etc.
    Here is a perfect example of what a secure job and the money earned was like in your parent’s time.
    A middle class single earner family with an income of £150.00 a week lived in a fair sized Government flat or local private rented home or bought a flat that cost £10,000 with a mortgage of £90.00 or less. That included interest, and insurance. Percentage wise (the proper way to evaluate then and today) that consumed approximately 15% of income.
    Today the average couple is struggling with mortgages that are consuming 50% or more of their income.
    So why hasn't this confused generation fought back and taken this entrapment seriously?
    It's the fairy tale syndrome. They just can't comprehend what was and what has been denied to them.
    We all need help, accept the true facts, I urge this generation to wake up and smell the "bullshit and work towards change for all
    God bless Gibraltar and may it return to what the founding fathers meant it to be, limited government and certainly limited corporate power.

  33. NGD for ever!: At the last General Election Charles Gomez stood on a platform which is very similar to that of Anonymous at 20.57 - the unbridled power of the political / corporate oligarchy in all the main stream political parties.His campaign motto was also "Wake Up!". Has Charles now taken to sending in anonymous posts? I thought he only posted under his own name.

  34. Ghost says:

    Is anon 20:57 for real or was the 22nd of November some sort take the piss out of LLanito World day.

    Is this person aware that there are no bank repossessions in Gibraltar, that our unemployment rate is the lowest in Europe, that unlike in the "good old days" Gib is self sufficient and economically independent, that our standard of living is amongst the top 20 worldwide?

    Is he truly suggesting that we should revert to dependence on the MOD at a rate of £150/week because there are too many women working?

    Not sure what he/she is waking up to, but it's gotta be stronger than just bullshit.


  35. Raita: If anything, I think it must be "take the piss out of LLanito World week"
    Ghost says that anon 20:57 is "suggesting that we should revert to dependence on the MOD at a rate of £150/week because there are too many women working?"
    Anon 20:57 didn't say anything of the sort.
    I also found Ghost worryingly complacent and hope that this is not how the GSD cuppola think.

  36. In answer to the NGD activist who posted at 09.01 yesterday I confirm that I did not write the anonymous email at 20.57. I do agree that the capitalist model which we have been living under in the West over the last 2 or more decades has been a complete disaster not just economically but also in terms of the erosion of the social fabric of Western nations. That capitalist model is as obsolete as communism (which as we all know collapsed 20 years ago). I am not in the fringe when it comes to this line of thinking. Last week Mervyn King the Governor of the Bank of England is quoted as having said that of all conceivable banking systems the one that we operate in the West is the worst possible. It is time for an intellectual revolution. Instead everyone appears to be flogging the same old failed economic models. We live in what the Chinese call "interesting times".

  37. Reference NGD 23 November 2010 09:01 may I say that Anon 20.57 was written by me GF. I have known C Gomez and Robert Vasquez for over thirty years and know they have the COJONES to add their names to whatever they write.
    Reference to Ghost 23 NOVEMBER 2010 21:33 you seem to have a reading understanding problem your invariable criticism and incongruous replies to RVJW and others of their written opinion only to eventually agree say sorry apologise etc. If you are looking for recognition and are jealous of RVJW excellent work perhaps you should join the TV show in UK or SPAIN called “I’m a celebrity get me out of here"...