Fifty inmates are to start work on a road construction project on industrial Thilafushi Island on Saturday as part of a re-integration program, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said.
Speaking at a Monday night event on President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s policies on youth development, Home Minister Umar Naseer said 70 percent of Maldivian prisoners fit into the youth demographic.
“There is no country in the world where detainees are not made to work. This administration’s aim is to make detainees in our jails work in various government projects. To bring them out of their current situation,” the Home Minister said.
When criminals remain in detention without work, society is deprived of major youth contribution, and forces the government to employ foreign laborers, Naseer said. Further, the state spends a high amount on prisoner care, while families of prisoners are driven to financially difficult situations, he said.
While the labour program is voluntary, detainees will be selected based on their disciplinary records while in prison and suitability for the work. They will be paid a stipend; half of which will be taken for development of the detention centers, and detainees will be given the choice to either save the remaining earnings or to send it to their families.
Naseer predicted that by the end of 2014, 400 out of 730 detainees will be working on some project, thereby preparing them for reintegration into society.
In order to prepare detainees for such work, vocational training programs will be introduced in Maafushi Island prison in the near future, he also said. The program will desensitize them to work environments, and hone a number of skills.
“Through these trainings we will be able to create electricians, air conditioning unit repairmen, and many other skilled workers. Our hope is that someday, society will benefit from services by those currently in our prisons,” he said.
DPRS to oversee detainee workers
According to the Home Ministry, the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) are to oversee the program.
State Minister for Home Affairs Hussain Manik Dhon Manik said DPRS guards will keep watch over inmates and emphasized that special focus would be given to ensure that detainees do not have any opportunity to smuggle in illegal drugs or other contraband into the prisons.
“We will not be negligent in any aspect of guarding detainees. We will not allow any illegal acts to be carried out even in their work environments,” he asserted.