THE Prisons Service has teamed up with the local cricket board and the umpires and scorers’ union for an historic initiative aimed at helping rehabilitate inmates.
On Monday, officials of the three bodies launched the Inmate Cricket Development Programme at the Maximum Security Prison Gymnasium in Arouca.
This event heralded a renewed partnership to form the TT Prisons Service cricket team.
This initiative provides the opportunity for quality training in coaching and umpiring techniques for both inmates and officers. Prison officers, who are expected to take a leading role, had participated in a two-day workshop held at the Prisons Sports Club on the May 22 and 24 as a precursor to the newly launched programme.
The latest effort is directly linked to the rehabilitative thrust of the TT Prisons Service as it seeks to empower inmates with marketable skills, and the opportunities for employment when they are released.
Additionally, the skills acquired will be initially honed through the Interstation Cricket Competition of the Prisons Service, exclusively for inmates.
Among those attending the function were Dudnath Ramkessoon, cricket operations officer of the TT Cricket Board, Parasram Singh, president of the TT Umpires and Scorers’ Union, Shaheed Allaham, vice-president of the TTSCU, Elite ICC umpire Joel Wilson, and his top local colleague Danesh Ramdanie.
Also present was Deputy Commissioner of Prisons (Administration) Dennis Pulchan, who wholeheartedly endorsed the development initiative.
“The sport of cricket will go a long way in re-tooling inmates in their focus in life, just as one needs to focus in order to win at cricket. Similarly, if this focus is applied to their lives, it would be of great benefit to them, their families and their communities,” said Pulchan.
Ramkessoon, who represented the TTCB, commended the Prisons Service for its willingness to inculcate cricket into the rehabilitative process.
“This is an opportunity for inmates to get involved in the game of cricket which can provide an income for them for the rest of their lives. This is a great programme facilitated by the Cricket Board, Umpires and Scorers’ Union and the Prisons Service,” said Ramkessoon, a former national senior team and West Indies youth captain.
Umpires and Scorers’ Union head Singh expressed his appreciation to Commissioner of Prisons Gerard Wilson for enthusiastically embracing the idea, which was first discussed with him in a conversation at another function.
“Commissioner Wilson immediately warmed to the proposal to train inmates in umpiring, as he saw how this could impact positively on the lives of the participants in the post-release period of their lives,” said Singh.
He stressed that the umpiring courses will boost the efforts of the Prisons Service, especially in the field of conflict resolution, a failure of which is the main reason why inmates are incarcerated.
“Our programme will train participants to become highly qualified, using top umpires, as they will be able to sit the exams and, based on their performances, will get the opportunity to move up the ladder and eventually reach national, regional and international status and become gainfully employed and reintegrated in society,” said Singh.
He said initially the TTUCU will provide facilitators and trainers for the programme but it is hoped that in due course, prisons officers who reach the required level will take over the responsibilities of the programme curriculum.
Also addressing the launch of the programme on Monday were Wilson and Allaham, a former school principal who is at the forefront of training and education of national cricket umpires.