PHILIPSBURG—The alarming rate of major crimes in St. Maarten has the attention of United People’s UP Party Member of Parliament Omar Ottley, who says better rehabilitation and or reintegration programs are urgently needed to reintegrate formerly convicted persons into society.
He also has some robbery prevention tips for businesses to apply in their daily operation immediately. “Staying alert and training your staff on how to react during a robbery attempt and putting proper surveillance and security measures in place are just a few ways to protect yourselves.
The Government’s need to put more uniformed officers on patrol in built-up areas is presently hindered by the global economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. But, Ottley says planning and creative policing with support from the Ministry of Justice can go a long way to reducing crime.
Criminals who commit armed robberies look for tradable goods such as gold, or actual cash Ottley says a good practice for pawnshops and cash for gold outlets is instituting strict trade policies for accepting items brought to them. MP Ottley highlighted the recent shooting death of a suspected armed robber by police following an armed robbery and said it is “very troubling to see former inmates return to a life of crime for their survival.” According to MP Ottley, the only way to truly protect businesses and residents from becoming victims of these “senseless crimes” is by contributing to rehabilitation efforts. Instead of seeing repeat offenders as “hardened criminals”, see them as someone’s son daughter who desperately needs our help.
“Reintegration into society after you have prison is a challenge for anyone, especially when trying to become gainfully employed. If we want to stop the cycle, we have to institute rehabilitation programs that cater to reintegration,” said MP Ottley.
In a press release issued Sunday, Ottley said St. Maarten must not only arrest and incarcerate individuals who commit crimes. “Doing this only makes the Pointe Blanche Prison a breeding ground for criminals.” To imprison without effective rehabilitation measures is equal to a “do-nothing approach”, hoping that the result will be the automatic character change from a life of violence and crime. “Many crimes committed by teenagers are often the result of adolescent misbehavior that has gone unchecked. If the Social Services Department needs more support or staff to assist parents who have children with behavioral issues, we must address it. To do nothing or ignore shortcomings in such an important department is allowing the growth of future criminals.”
He said St. Maarten’s Prison population still has individuals who can contribute positively to society after serving their sentences. However, proper rehabilitation for inmates can only be achieved if we put real programs that monitor prisoners’ behavior and prepare them for reintegration into society. “A structurally organized program would address our youths and young adults’ critical social challenges and give them the assistance they need to return to society with external support to keep them from becoming repeat offenders,” Ottley said.
“Changes in behavioral patterns can occur with proper social guidance that helps convicted persons to see where they went wrong, earn up to their mistakes and make life-changing decisions,” said Ottley. Robberies and other serious crimes significantly impact the victims, their families, and society in general and should not be taken lightly. The suggestions for rehabilitation do not excuse the need to ensure stiff punishment for crimes. “As the saying goes, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Regarding sentences meted out for crimes committed, Ottley said the punishment must fit the crime committed. “Some laws may need revision to ensure the penalties are severe enough to act as deterrents as well,” said MP Ottley.
Results and the offer of hope to persons who have known a life of crime or first offenders cannot be achieved solely by detention. The multi-faceted rehabilitation/reintegration program for the prison submitted to the Ministry of Justice in 2019 by The Etiquette Factory SXM is one way of getting us closer to our goal. That goal is to foster growth, transformation, and rehabilitation for the target groups, emphasizing discipline, integrity, manners, general life skills, and etiquette. This requires a public, private partnership in hiring rehabilitated individuals upon their release, given that they successfully graduated from the program and received their reintegration certificates.
MP Ottley emphasized that such a program will also change the public perception of incarcerated persons, making them more marketable to potential employers. “Our young people are the future of our society. They face many negative influences and insufficient uplifting role models. When they become delinquent, they need and deserve continued support, encouragement and guidance to get their lives back on track,” said MP Ottley.