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Thumbs up for rehab of 'house of exile'

Avinesh Gopal
Monday, August 18, 2014

IT is a place where people are

sent to as a form of punishment

for their crimes.

However, the trend has changed in some countries in dealing with those incarcerated.

The prisons or correction centres as they are now known in Fiji are compared to hospitals by some people.

Once known as the house of exile — for people put away from society — prisons nowadays are seen as a rehabilitation or treatment centre.

For example in Fiji, prisoners are now equipped with various skills they

can utilise to earn a decent living

when they are released from

the correction centres.

In a paper prepared in the 1970s, a former senior prison officer talked about his experiences of dealing with the prisoners and what changes could be done in the system.

For the past three weeks, we gave our readers excerpts of the confidential document, which was given by the former prisons officer to his boss then.

As we wrap up the series on the prisons service today, the former senior prison officer talks about the "house of exile" and hospitals.

PRISONS or correction centres are often seen as places for people who are banished from society.

But there is a need for prisons of today to become more like general hospitals with their treatment functions clearly defined.

It is the belief of a former senior prison officer, who attended some courses on looking after prisoners during his 16-year career.

Now 78 year old and confined to a wheelchair, Isoa Koroivuki also prepared a paper titled Crime and Punishment in the 1970s.

Mr Koroivuki wrote about the prison system and among many other things, what could be done to help the prisoners.

He said a prison could be compared with a general hospital where people went for treatment.

"Several notable developments took place in the transition of institutions for the physically ill to modern hospitals," he said.

"In the first phase, diagnostic methods were improved and the hospitals were able to diagnose and classify their patients, and as resources were forthcoming, those suffering from contagious diseases were separated from those in hospitals because of injuries and non-infectious conditions.

"Custodial care and welfare became more specialised and patients were placed in wards in terms of their needs of care and observation."

Mr Koroivuki said efforts were made to make hospitals more pleasant and cheerful for patients, not only in terms of physical hygiene and sanitation but also mentally.

He said the goodwill and optimism of doctors and nurses were recognised as important for the treatment of patients.

"While all cases may not have been treated equally and similarly, each kind of disease was gradually treated differently from others.

"As the diagnosis improved, doctors and nurses recognised the advances in the medical field and the morale of hospitals got better.

"The patients became more willing to accept the hospital as a place to go to for medical treatment if they had any problems."

Mr Koroivuki said likewise, the entire staff members of the prisons department should understand and respect the purpose of correction centres and collaborate in its programs of treatment.

"Prison officers like staff of a good and modern hospital may then enjoy great self respect and a more genuine interest and enthusiasm which are always shared by a good prison officer to do what he wants to do and has always tried to do to become their other brothers keeper.

"The prisons of today represent a far different atmosphere from those of the past.

"We now have glimpses of the subject under survey involving the physical structure of yesteryear. The most striking feature perhaps is its drabness.

"It has that institutional look shared by police stations, hospitals, orphanage, mental asylum and similar public buildings."

Mr Koroivuki said correction and rehabilitation institutions should adjust themselves with the technology.

He said they should ensure that a person did not return to prison once he or she was discharged after serving the sentence meted out by the court.

"In any centre whose goal is the rehabilitation and reformation of prisoners, means and activities should be provided for the inmates to help them feel at home in prison.

"They should be discouraged or distracted from the first flush of excitement once they feel and realise that the institutional bond has been relaxed or removed.

"One has to ask one's self as to how one can override the repression within the prison walls."

Mr Koroivuki said it was not solitude that plagued a prisoner but life in general.

"In his progressive age of change, we place a person in prison not in a spirit of revenge but in the fondest hope that the experience will lead him to refrain from further criminal activities in the future."

He applauded the Fiji Corrections Service and its rehabilitation programs.

"The FCS and its loyal and hardworking staff have tirelessly and endlessly brought along with them the highest level of innovation and creativity within the aspects of the modern approach to changes.

"I've noted moves that generate the commercialisation of the inmates reform and rehabilitation processes.

"I believe that more such activities need to be included in the daily lives of the inmates, and in addition to what is currently in place for the inmates, I believe that floral farming should also be introduced at the correction centres.

"The inmates can make wreaths and bouquets from the flowers for sale and they can also sell the flowers during Valentine's Day and on other occasions."

Mr Koroivuki resigned from the prisons department on January 24, 1980, because of personal reasons.

He believes that a prison is like a general hospital because it is for the treatment of prisoners by helping them change their lives.

As such, he said prisons should not be seen as a place where people were banished to from the society for the wrongs they did.

The former prison officer said considering his experience in looking after prisoners, he believed he still had a lot of valuable advice to offer.

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