CFEO Training Day – Tobago

The local Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO) continued its partnership with CURB in observing Restorative Justice Week 2010 with the theme “Communities Caring for Ex-Offenders”.

Following a highly successful Training Day in Trinidad on Monday 22nd November, 2010 the UK team of Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO) and local CFEO President, Adrian Alexander, journeyed to the sister isle of Tobago for a Caring for Ex-Offenders Training Day for faith and community based organisations there.

Initial discussions between the Tobago House of Assembly, Department for Social Services and Gender Affairs and CFEO commenced in April 2010 with the intention to host a training event in August 2010. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the Training Day had to be postponed to later in the year.

UK team and local reps prepare to commence training

The Tobago event was eventually held on Wednesday 24th November, 2010 at the Mt. Irvine Bay Hotel, Tobago. In spite of the delay, the CFEO Training Day received the full support of the THA and there was an overwhelming response from the faith and community based organisations in Tobago.

The purpose of the training was to impart to leaders of faith based and community based organisations a clear understanding of the needs of ex-offenders and to empower the attendees to decide whether to provide support to ex-offenders in their communities.

Cross section of crowd of 100 delegates!

The event commenced about 9:20 am and lasted until just after 4:00 pm and was very well patronised with up to 105 persons in attendance at its peak; well over the initial target of 80 persons!

Delegates came from faith based organisations, community based organisations, CURB, Prison Fellowship, the Prisons Service, Probation Services and other departments of the THA.

Assistant Secretary in the Division of Health and Social Services, Mr. Huey Cadette spoke of the vision the THA has to provide relevant interventions for vulnerable members of the local population including ex-offenders, persons living with HIV/ AIDS, battered women and senior citizens.

Hard working staff of the Tobago House of Assembly

He gave the commitment of his Department to working with faith-based and community-based organisations to ensure the needs of ex-offenders and other vulnerable persons are met.

Mr. Cadette encouraged the audience to reflect on our attitudes to ex-offenders and to cease making them pay for their crimes long after they complete their sentences. Rather, he said we should treat ex-offenders as the father of the Prodigal Son treated his son.

The UK presenters of Ms. Merilyn “Emmy” Wilson, Rev. John Sephton and Mr. Oscar Vickerman (assisted by Ms. Theresa Harvey) shared with local stakeholders the framework of the Caring for Ex-Offenders model of aftercare which originated with Holy Trinity Brompton, Alpha International and the charity, Caring for Ex-Offenders in the UK.

Group picture

The success of the model in that country to dramatically reduce rates of re-offending through faith based mentoring and support has led to it being endorsed by Home Office, Police and other officials in the UK. It is also in use in South Africa, the USA, Canada and Singapore.

The model as used in the UK is an holistic intervention as it is complemented with programmes for ex-offenders and other vulnerable persons to address marital and parenting challenges, substance abuse and financial management.

The local presenter was Mr. Adrian Alexander, President of the local Caring for Ex-Offenders (CFEO) as well as President of Caribbean Umbrella Body for Restorative Behaviour (CURB).

Mr. Alexander endorsed the comments of Mr. Cadette and pointed to the banner for Restorative Justice Week which featured an illustration of the father of the prodigal son receiving his errant son with forgiveness and a loving embrace as he returned to his community.

He spoke of the needs of ex-offenders and shared with the audience the research driven responses which had been developed by a Cabinet appointed Inter-Ministerial Committee to address those needs, inclusive of the acceptance of the Turning of the Hearts model for restorative reintegration.

CFEO President, Adrian Alexander delivers a presentation to the delegates

He said that the Turning of the Hearts model recommends a networking of non-governmental and community-based organisations, which is fulfilled in CURB. However, he believes that a networking of faith based organisations to assist ex-offenders in their safe reintegration is an essential component to add to the Turning Of The Hearts programme.

Mr. Alexander also delivered talks on how faith based and community based organisations should work together with statutory authorities such as the Police, Probation, Social Services as well as the Courts.

An Attorney-at-Law by profession, Mr. Alexander took pains to share information on the present legal position in terms of sex offenders and local statistics as to the number of incarcerated violent offenders.

He went further to indicate that the Probation Department in Trinidad had begun to deliver training for faith based and community based organisations in conducting risk assessments – a skill which they could utilise on an ongoing basis to measure the level of risk with ex-offenders integrated into their churches.

He encouraged the participants to broaden their vision so as to appreciate that working with ex-offenders would also sometimes involve working with their family members and community. This is needed so as to treat with issues of family reconciliation, victim offender reparation/restitution and other challenges which together impact the lives of ex-offenders and influence their chances to succeed in the process of reintegration.

Throughout the day, the CFEO trainers utilised several case studies for the participants to discuss the best approach to take in various issues which could arise while working with ex-offenders. These interactive segments  allowed the participants in the training to share ideas and offer suggestions to the respective scenarios.

At the end of the training session, participants were granted an opportunity to pose questions to the members of a panel comprising the UK CFEO team, the local CFEO President, Mr. Richard Barker (the President of New Hope Prison Ministry and a Board Member of CURB) and Mr. Richard Mac Farlane of the THA.

CFEO team leaves Mt. Irvine Bay Hotel after a very productive Training Day

In discussing the way forward, Mr. Alexander gave the audience the assurance that the UK-based CFEO model has been modified to take into account the unique cultural and other dynamics of Trinidad and Tobago.

In particular, the local model of CFEO will place emphasis on empowering ex-offenders to take responsibility for their actions, make amends to their primary and secondary victims and become active participants in strengthening the national community.

Churches which are interested in working with ex-offenders were encouraged to register with CFEO at our website. Those which do so shall be included in a national directory and shall receive training for their members in mentoring ex-offenders and other core skills in the new year.

The registered faith-based organisations will also receive a Caring for Ex-Offenders Handbook with the names and contact details of local State agencies and civil society stakeholders on which to call fro assistance in working with ex-offenders. Ongoing support from the local CFEO office will also be provided.

Community based and non-governmental organisations which wish to work with ex-offenders were encouraged to become involved with CURB to form part of a national NGO/CBO directory to lend support to faith based organisations.

A novel component to the CFEO Training Day was the mini Restorative Justice Exhibition by a few non-governmental, faith-based and community-based organisations, some of which provide support services to offenders, crime survivors and the wider community.

CFEO looks forward to working closely with the THA, the faith-based and the community-based organisations of Tobago in the new year towards the further empowerment of key stakeholders to work with offenders, ex-offenders and their families.

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Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm  Comments Off on CFEO Training Day – Tobago  
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