Basseterre, St. Kitts – Female residents at His Majesty’s Prison (HMP) in St. Kitts and Nevis are enjoying unprecedented levels of liberty that permit them to leave the four walls of the correctional facility as part of the rehabilitative programme.
Unlike their male counterparts, females were not allowed to leave the prison compound to participate in rehabilitation activities. Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, the Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew described the restrictions as “archaic” and pledged to work with partners to overhaul the policy as it stood in contrast to the government’s commitment to the principles of “fairness and justice for all.”
In March 2023, the female inmates were released for the first time in the history of HMP to attend service at the Antioch Baptist Church in commemoration of International Women’s Day. Dr. Drew indicated that streamlined rehabilitation programmes were implemented in August to promote gender equity.
“As of August 2023, incarcerated female offenders are allowed to participate in supervised assignments and rehabilitative activities in the same manner as the males,” said Prime Minister Dr. Drew during the 2024 Budget Address on December 13. “This decision has the potential to yield great benefits not only for female offenders upon release, but also for their families and communities through the opportunities to learn new skills. This is also consistent with the overall efforts to reduce recidivism and promote the acquisition of decent work.”
Virgil Hodge, HMP’s Rehabilitation Officer, said that the new policy has been well received by incarcerated persons and their families. Since the policy change, the female inmates have participated in Arts and Craft training at the Craft House. The training was organized by the Department of Gender Affairs. At the end, the participants showcased their new skills by producing brooches and other trinkets for the Independence 40 celebrations.
Officer Hodge added that the females have also visited farms at Needsmust to explore farming techniques, were taught t-shirt design, and learnt how to make guava cheese during a workshop at St. Peters. The rehabilitation officer added that additional programme activities will be offered to females to assist their personal and skills development.