Seychelles Prison to implement restorative justice programme |21 November 2023
50 percent of convicts are repeat offenders
Among the 444 residents at the Montagne Posée Prison, including the 140 on remand, 50 percent of them are repeat offenders.
These alarming figures were shared by the Commissioner of Prisons, Raymond St Ange, yesterday during the signing of a memorandum of understanding at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The MoU was signed between Seychelles Prison and the RESTORE Consortium of South Africa. The latter took part in the proceedings virtually.
Both entities will collaborate to implement Restorative Justice.
Commissioner St Ange stated that “currently, the main crimes committed by the prisoners include theft, house break-ins, drug offenses, murder/manslaughter, and sexual offenses against minors and women. Unfortunately, there has been a 55 percent increase in admissions this year.”
“Restorative justice will be an essential element for the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society. Its aim is to bring together those most affected by the criminal act – the offender, the victim, and community members – in a non-adversarial process to encourage offender accountability and meet the needs of the victims to repair the harms resulting from the crime,” explained Commissioner St Ange.
He further noted that “many prisoners face traumas, some since childhood, which influence their lives negatively and contribute to the development of criminal behaviour. Restorative behaviour will help them open their hearts and minds to transform negativity into positivity. The Commissioner said the prisoners’ mental health was of great concern.
“We have met with a Seychellois clinical psychologist currently in the UK, returning to Seychelles, who will offer her services. We are also in discussions with other professionals, and Seychelles Prison is working closely with the University of Seychelles.”
Seychelles Prison initiated contact with RESTORE in March 2023 through the Advisory Committee for Presidential Pardon. Their first visit to Seychelles took place in July 2023.
Commissioner St Ange shared that a study by Benjamin Vel in 2015-2016 showed that 30-35 percent of prisoners were repeat offenders. The prison service will be working with the University of Seychelles in 2023 to update this research. “Unfortunately we are observing more than 50 percent repeat offenders, including a man who has been in and out of prison seven times,” he said.
Security service at the prison was also increasing, and soon, the Montagne Posée prison will have a body scanner to prevent drugs from entering the prison. Financially it costs around R200,000 to maintain a prisoner per year and R3,000 for one admission. Commissioner St Ange stated the cost of incarceration was alarming. Seychelles Prison Service was in discussions with the court for alternative sentences such as community service, ‘Respe pour nou vwazinaz.'
The director of RESTORE, Lisa Marqua-Harries, also added that “this programme will help improve the existing system in Seychelles, focusing on public and community safety. We look forward to collaborating with Seychelles in establishing restorative justice in the country”.
It is worth recalling that the Seychelles Prison Service first announced on this year's Nelson Mandela Day, observed on July 18, 2023, that it would be adding Restorative Justice to its revised strategic plan for 2024 – 2029.
The MoU signing was attended by Sam Dodin, Deputy Commissioner; Merna Valmont, Prison Welfare Officer; Elsa Nourrice, Principal Probation Officer and Psychosocial Rehabilitation Department; and Louisna Neamtu, Chief Inspector. Venessa Padayachee from RESTORE Consortium South Africa was also present at the meeting.
Restore is a charity set up in South Africa by Lisa Marqua-Harries and Lindsey Pettit-Lee in 2012 to deliver Restorative Justice courses for young offenders in Cape Town’s Pollsmoor Prison. After many years of voluntary prison work Lisa and Lindsey decided a consistent and systematic programme would best tackle the challenges of these young offenders and so RESTORE was born. RESTORE works hands-on with offenders both inside and outside of prison, their families, the justice cluster and civic society. It runs victim awareness programmes and family days inside prison as well as oversees formerly incarcerated reintegration pathways and hosts monthly meetings in the community including a participatory research project and a journalism programme. Formerly incarcerated graduates are encouraged to write about their experience in prison, which is part of a therapeutic intervention. Their writings are published online. RESTORE also builds capacity in the community through peace circles. It is involved with training both online and in person, both locally and abroad.
Photos: Joena Meme