GIS- 25 September 2014: The Mauritius Prison Service (MPS) Strategic Plan 2013-2023 was released this morning at the Prison Training School in Beau Bassin by the Commissioner of Prisons, Mr Jean Bruneau.
The ten-year plan was devised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime consultant, Mr William Cullen, in collaboration with the MPS and other stakeholders. The aim is to bring down the current recidivism rates by arranging for additional support structures and providing for a more structured form of release.
The concept to develop a strategic plan was initially proposed in 2011, during a workshop on “Incarceration and Recidivism in Mauritius – Challenges, Perspectives and the Way Forward” organised by the University of Technology, in collaboration with the MPS. It comprises six pillars namely, setting up of a strategic planning and research unit, improving security of prisons, integrating detainee management, rehabilitation and resettlement, operation of the Eastern High Security Prison, and capacity building.
In his opening address, Mr Bruneau pointed out that the MPS has not kept pace with many important improvements and changes that have occurred in contemporary prison jurisdictions across the developed world, hence the need to have a strategic plan.
The major constraints relate to the 85% of released detainees who have re-offended and returned to prison over the past 18 years; half of the prison population are on remand detention awaiting trial and sentencing; over half of those detainees who are convicted are sentenced for short periods of less than 6 months; over a quarter of those convicted were admitted for non-payment of fines.
According to the Commissioner of Prisons, the majority of detainees on release could not find a job on account of a certificate of Morality which was required from them and many of them could not open a bank account if they were to set a business of their own. He added that the 2013-2023 Strategic Plan outlines new and clear goals for the Prison service, in which the main focus will be to reduce re-offending by detainees and to depart from ‘warehousing’ detainees to a ‘corrections’ model of imprisonment.
For his part, Mr William Cullen pointed out that Mauritius has taken several steps forward in international relations in its management of piracy detainees. He said that our prison services is one the best in the region, adding that with the implementation of the wide-ranging and comprehensive 10-year strategic plan, the MPS is likely to become one of the leading prison services and a shining light for other countries to model themselves on. He expressed confidence that in the coming years, Mauritius will witness a reduction in reoffending behaviour and that the MPS is on the way to having the highest standards of administration in the world.
Six strategic pillars
The MPS has set up a Strategic Planning Unit and new legislation has been drafted. An Inspectorate mechanism has also been established and trained to comprehensively inspect prisons and make recommendations for improvements to operations. Furthermore, the first phase of the e-prison system consisting of core modules has been completed. A new IT infrastructure has been put in place connecting all the sub-prisons to Prison headquarters.
Under the second pillar, a new Emergency Framework has been developed for the MPS to provide a consistent, professional approach in dealing with all emergencies that prisons may face. Under the ‘Integrated Detainee Management’ pillar, a number of officers have received training in new and more modern prison management techniques overseas which are being progressively introduced at the New Eastern High Security Prison.
The MPS has implemented a series of measures under the pillar ‘Rehabilitation and Resettlement’. These include: introduction of Methadone Substitution Therapy whereby 485 detainees are on the programme, inauguration of a Self-Care Unit at the Women Prison, the establishment of an Open facility for women, and a “Payback Mauritius” programme.
As regards operations of the Eastern High Security Prison, detainees have been transferred to the new prison. The occupancy level of Eastern High Security Prison has already reached 63% and will reach its optimum level very soon in the course of this year.
Under the last pillar, 61 new Prison Officers have been enlisted in August 2014, 121 Prison Officers of batch 2013 passed out in 2014 after having undergone their initial training period. A total of 357 Prison Officers have attended training including 243 who have undergone at least 40 hours training, 11 officers have benefitted from international exposure in best correctional practice, two batches of officers have been attending courses at the Department of Corrective Services, Western Australia.
Moreover 45 detainees followed accredited Vocational training and 170 detainees were enlisted into educational programmes including 15 for the Certificate of Primary Education.
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