Minister: Prison Work Programme To Continue

March 25, 2013 | 16 Comments

[Updated with video] The incident which resulted in a sex offender working outside his victim’s mothers home was “the result of a genuine fault in the system and where there are flaws in the system then it is the responsibility of the Government to address them,” Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley said today.

Last week the newspaper reported that Tewolde Selassie, who was jailed for 25 years in 2007, was put to work across the street from the home of his victim’s mother. The mother was understandably upset by this, and pointed out her daughter — who was only 15 years old at the time of her attack — often visits her home.

“Last week, the positives of the programme were overshadowed by a concern expressed on behalf of the mother of a victim of a terrible crime,” said Minister Dunkley today.

“An inmate was working as part of the Community Service Programme in the vicinity of the home of the victim’s mother where she could reasonably be expected to visit from time to time. This obviously caused them considerable distress and as the Minister responsible for Corrections I deeply sympathize with the family.”

“The Commissioner of Corrections and the men and women of the Department are sensitive, professional people who work every day to strike the necessary balance in running prisons. This incident is the result of a genuine fault in the system and where there are flaws in the system then it is the responsibility of the Government to address them.”

“With the Commissioner of Corrections, we will tighten-up the assessment that surrounds inmate deployment on community service and how we might better insulate victims and their families from having the relive the horror of the crime.

Minister Dunkley continued, “What we cannot do is end the programme. Too much success is at stake to simply shelve the initiative because of adverse publicity.

“We do not cut and run, we adjust the way we do things to allow for the positives to continue and the negatives to be dealt with. The community service programme will continue.”

Minister Dunkley’s full statement follows below:

Good morning and thank you for coming. The Community Service Programme run by the Department of Corrections provides inmates with the opportunity to give back to the community through supervised work initiatives. Senior’s homes, schools, churches and public parks have all benefitted from this labour. The programme achieves several things: inmates learn the value of honest work, charitable organizations benefit from labour that they might otherwise be unable to afford and the Government saves money by using considerably less expensive inmate labour.

Last week, the positives of this programme were overshadowed by a concern expressed on behalf of the mother of a victim of a terrible crime. An inmate was working as part of the Community Service Programme in the vicinity of the home of the victim’s mother where she could reasonably be expected to visit from time to time. This obviously caused them considerable distress and as the Minister responsible for Corrections I deeply sympathize with the family.

The Commissioner of Corrections and the men and women of the Department are sensitive, professional people who work every day to strike the necessary balance in running prisons. This incident is the result of a genuine fault in the system and where there are flaws in the system then it is the responsibility of the Government to address them.

Policies and programmes must be implemented in ways that inspire public confidence. We may not get everything right but we have a responsibility to reduce the risk of getting it wrong. This case demonstrates the need for our systems to always exercise care and to always stay in tune with public sentiment.

With the Commissioner of Corrections, we will tighten-up the assessment that surrounds inmate deployment on community service and how we might better insulate victims and their families from having the relive the horror of the crime. What we cannot do is end the programme. Too much success is at stake to simply shelve the initiative because of adverse publicity.

We do not cut and run, we adjust the way we do things to allow for the positives to continue and the negatives to be dealt with. The community service programme will continue.

Part of last week’s discussion focused on parole. It is important for the public to appreciate that just because an inmate is eligible for parole does not mean he or she will be granted parole.

In the short time I have had responsibility for the Parole Board I have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the work of the Board, meeting and communicating with the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Ashfield Devent. I can assure you that they do not take their responsibility lightly.

The 2012 Report of the Parole Board, tabled in the House in the last sitting, indicates that of 131 cases reviewed last year, 32 inmates were granted parole. The Board is very conscious of all of the factors involved in the release of an inmate on parole and the safety of the public is high on their list. As part of the conditions of parole, the Board also has the ability to order the electronic monitoring of paroled inmates, which helps to supplement the oversight of the parole officer and allows constant tracking of their movements in the community.

As my colleague, the Attorney General, has said, the former government in 2002 instituted eligibility for parole after serving one-third of a sentence. As we all know, Bermuda’s crime picture has dramatically changed in the intervening 11 years. Gun crime, gang activity and other serious offences have resulted in a different approach by the Police, the Courts and even us in the public. The imposition of long sentences with recommendations on parole eligibility is a message to us as legislators and it is a message we must heed.

Please be assured that the review of the parole regime is a priority for the Ministry of Public Safety and the Government. The public will recall that at the last sitting of the House I tabled and amendment to increase the size of the Parole Board. That Bill will be debated when we return in May and also during that Session this Government will table a further Bill to make a breach of parole an arrestable offence. This will fulfill a Throne Speech promise made just last month.

The people of Bermuda have been consistently clear about the importance of public safety to their quality of life. For this economy to grow Bermuda must be returned to the safe place we knew it to be. As Minister of Public Safety, I, with the support of my colleagues, will work tirelessly to achieve that critical objective.

The people of Bermuda have expressed their views clearly and we will act prudently based on clear public sentiment. We have heard the people; we feel their concern and fully understand the demand for our attention in this area.

In closing, let me again express my sincere support and understanding of the concern and upset of this victim’s family. Out of these distressing circumstances for one family, we are determined to learn, improve and make meaningful changes to policies, laws and how we do business.

Thank you.

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Comments (16)

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  1. Bermudian says:

    Well, I can't knock Mr. Dunkley as his department has taken full responsibility in the matter. Anther thing that has to be looked at is why this man has been allowed to go on day release. I think he should have to serve half his sentene before that happens.

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    • "Here-here"I totally agree with you, "Bermudian" As a matter of fact, there are certain offenders that shouldn't be eligible period for any type of,"work release" i.e. "didlers" rapist,premeditated murder and the repeat offender, them that'll face their third strike shouldn't be permitted pre-release work either.

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    • Webster says:

      Bermudian, it seems like no one gives a damn about the poor victims !!! it is all about doing everything for these criminals, if I had my way they would be strung up to the nearest tree.

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  2. jdogg says:

    I think the issue is not so much whether the program should continue- I think the issue is the fact of WHO is out on the program...I think ppl could accept a burglar, or someone in for abh or gbh being out on the program, but a rapist- really>? after not even serving half his time he should be out being 'reformed' to enter society in ten/15 yrs....I do agree with Mr Dunkley that ppl need to prepared to come back into society but how bout a little closer to the time he is coming out- like 18yrs into his sentence let him do day release. The issue is with the Commissioner making foolhardy decisions regarding his precious inmates, or as he fondly calls them in media, 'his sons' 'that didn't get enough hugs'.

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  3. Dennis Williams says:

    ..here is an example of when people say we should make the inmates do this and do that while they are serving their time...now look at what happened...

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  4. Der says:

    Mama should have kill him

    .....not joking

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  5. VL says:

    Minister Dunkley, with the greatest of respect I have a suggestion for you. Please, PLEASE assign Col Lamb a spokesperson. He does not know how to talk to the public in a way that gives them confidence in the system! He really needs a crash course in public relations, no wonder so many people think he should go!!! People are understandably frightened and upset in situations such as these, and then the Colonel just blows off their fears. He may see these men as good guys in need of a hug, the rest of us see them as criminals. I understand the need for rehabilitation, but it’s been proven time and time again that sex fiends cannot be.

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    • Webster says:

      VL, you are so right, it is time to get tough these thugs who rape and murder should never be on day release.
      I also think Col Lamb should stop giving these criminals hugs !!!!!!!!!!! maybe it is time to retire Lamb.

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  6. More BS says:

    This is why we have the problems in Bermuda the system is soft on crime. OBA & PLP. These men don't care because they will be out in 3 years or less lol at the victim. In a real prison you do the time and you don't get to go out and pick flowers or cut someones grass for charity. If that was your child Dunkley would you feel the same way?????????????

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    • Webster says:

      Dunkley,what have you said or done for this poor young girl that was raped ? it seems like you are more concerned for this rapist, and what happens to him when he gets the hell out of jail, same old bull #$%^.

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  7. Kiskadee says:

    I was very disappointed when I heard Mr Dunkley on TV last night. He is supporting the idea of these criminals being out among the general public. These rapists should never be allowed out . It is very frightening.

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  8. Xman says:

    The People of Bermuda is not saying STOP the inmates work program -were saying to the Prison Officials to have
    some thought about who,were,and what you send out to work in the public.
    It was a good thing that this person of significant interest was highlighted to the public because the next inmate let
    out could have been a Gang member who could have been shot or he could have shot somebody.
    I bet you from here on The Bermuda Prison Service will think twice before they let out certain types of inmates.
    I hope that they never let out the inmate that killed the German Tourist at Dock Yard some years ago - for they tell me that this guy is even a violent person in Prison.

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  9. KarmaGotEm says:

    Mr. Dunkley, please do not put your money where your mouth is, because you will surely lose it. You "claim" that all prisoners out on programs are under strict supervision at all times. Bull, if so then someone hired to provide Security to the Community for these prisoners is turning a blind eye to some things which should not be happening with prisoners in their care. I know of an ex-inmate who fathered a child whilst out on his daily program and received his parole on a murder conviction, when the time arose. Mr. Dunkley PLEASE STOP trying to SNOW the people of Bermuda. Although I do agree that prisoners need rehabilitation, I also believe that the prisoners are not supervised as diligently as you suggest. From my understanding in talking to other ex-prisoners, this happens consistently, and there are Officers who carry the men to their women whilst they complete their errands.

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  10. Jorge says:

    Dunkley made the most out of this situation to make himself look good, but beware of the silver tongue!!!

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  11. nuffin but da truth says:

    People have started to lose or have lost confidence in lambe and with Dunkley's statement it is understandable.
    Should this rapist or any other come near my house I'll be locked up for doing what should have been done to them!

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