Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): The Rehabilitation Programme of His Majesty’s Prison (HMP) continues to break new ground as it seeks to positively transform the minds and lives of inmates.
Louis Gardener, Alpha Duporte, Keith Murray, and Inebo Hendrickson, were the first residents of HMP to be certified in Welding and Mechanic from the Advanced Vocational Educational Centre (AVEC). The four men were a part of the pilot programme with AVEC which began in 2019. Studies were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when stringent measures were taken to limit community spread. The inmates were able to complete their studies and passed their exams earlier this year. They received their certificates on December 1, 2022, during AVEC’s graduation ceremony at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort.
Louis Gardener said it was an extremely proud moment.
“I felt thrilled and had a great feeling of exuberance because to see all the hard work, in spite of the twists and the turns, to see that we finally reached the apex,” he said, noting that there is still room for professional growth. “Being at the graduation it was a momentous occasion and something that I embraced.”
Mr. Gardener already possessed the practical skills required in welding and mechanic. He learned it at Camp Springfield in 2015, where he services and repairs vehicles as well as welds gates, railings, burglar bars, and other structures. His work can be seen at the Coast Guard Base where he worked tirelessly with others to install new interior and exterior railings during renovations.
HMP’s Rehabilitation Officer, Virgil Hodge, stated that the Rehabilitation Programme finds a variety of ways to engage the men and women who are incarcerated. These include educational programmes, music, art, agriculture, construction, baking, mentorship, and training, among others. The Welding and Mechanic Programme falls under education and training.
Officer Hodge said that the success of the pilot programme has sparked interest among other inmates.
“That’s great because I know once they have good behaviour, we will definitely make sure that they get that opportunity to do that,” she noted.
As for the successful four, Officer Hodge said that efforts will be made for them to expand their horizons whether at the St. Kitts and Nevis Defence Force (SKNDF) at Camp Springfield or some other opportunity.
“That’s something we have to look at because we may lack the officers who will have to be there with them [on a job attachment] but we cannot stay there,” Ms. Hodge expressed, sharing a determination to find a practical solution. “There has to be some continuation of them practicing their skill until the time for release.”
Mr. Gardener praised all involved for creating this avenue of rehabilitation. These include Commissioner of Corrections Terrance James, Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Denzil Harris, Lieutenant Colonel J. Anthony Comrie, Director of AVEC Winston Brookes and his staff, and others who assisted in the programme and at the SKNDF Camp. He also applauded Officer Hodge.
“She played a crucial role in our achievements,” he stated. “Her tireless work and dedication that she puts in are just amazing. Many times, she even used her own transportation just to ensure we reached class. And sometimes, even though she has other activities to attend, if we need a little extra five or ten minutes [after class] she happily granted us that time. Words itself cannot be sufficient for me to express my gratitude to her,” Mr. Gardener added.
He indicated that the other inmates who received their certificates in Welding and Mechanic share similar sentiments and are anxious to give back to society through service.