IT IS better to be respected than to be feared. This was the advice from Commissioner of Prisons Gerard Wilson to recruits from Batch 576 on Monday during a Passing Out and Induction ceremony at Golden Grove Prison in Arouca. After a ceremony that lasted just over three hours, 177 recruits were officially prisons officers.
“When inmates fear you they do so within the confines of the prison. When they respect you, the respect is inside and outside of the walls. The strive for respect can only be achieved when you show respect,” he advised the young officers. Wilson said there was a constant struggle to be appreciated within the service.
“We are unsung heroes in a criminal justice system although we put our lives at risk in the interest of public safety. This situation is not unique. The job of a prisons officer anywhere in the world is not for the faint-hearted,” he said. Wilson said Government was working with the Prisons’ Services First and Second Divisions to formulate the type of legislation that would act as a deterrent and offer greater protection internally and externally for prisons officers.
He told the officers to dismiss the notion of considering the Prisons Services as just having a secure Government job and a way of adequately providing for their family. “The difference of changing lives through behaviour modification would replace your initial intent of just making a quick dollar. You have made a conscious decision to be part of an organisation where the knowledge of skills acquired would be tested at every phase to struggle to deal mentally and physically with an unforgiving public,” he said.
Wilson said he was accused of being wicked and heartless when he had someone in handcuffs. “This person had committed a most heinous crime yet I was being abused because I was only doing my job. In Remand, you would encounter inmates who have been incarcerated for eight years and excited to appear in the magistrate court for a final appearance for the case to be called, only to find out that a prima facie case had been made against him. This inmate then anticipated another eight years before his matter could be called for trial. Then their demeanour changed.
“Your responses to these challenges will reflect your passion for the job. Are you going to watch the clock waiting for the hours to pass, or are you going to take all the knowledge and skills acquired during your training and apply it? Are you going to be an addition to the problem or be the key to a solution,” he asked.
Wilson said as the Prisons Services celebrated 180 years in existence of the 1838 Prisons Service Act, there would be a revamping of the Prisons Service and networking with inmates to build better relationships.