Correctional Services in Jamaica is a department under the Ministry of National Security. Other major arms of the Ministry are the Police Force and the Jamaica Defence Force. The Judicial System falls under the Ministry of Justice. The Commissioner of Corrections is the chief executive officer who administers the Correctional programmes on behalf of the Government of Jamaica and reports to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of National Security.
During the post-independence years the prison system in Jamaica was composed of three (3) main entities: the Prisons, the Probation Services and the Approved Schools which functioned separately in the implementation and execution of the correctional functions of the Government. This distinction of roles in the administrative process created an inefficient system plagued with inconsistencies and duplication. To rectify this problem, in 1975 an administrative directive ordered that the three bodies be joined to form one department. This union led to the formation of the Department of Correctional Services, one of the main facets of the Ministry of National Security and Justice. Prior to the merger in 1975, the conceptual function of the prison system was that of punishment. However, the merger forged new directions for the Correctional Services as opportunities were opened for rehabilitation and care.
In keeping with this new philosophy on offender management, in 1978 the Criminal Justice Reform Act was passed in Parliament and introduced new alternatives to incarceration (non-custodial sentences). In addition to Probation Order, non-custodial options are:
- Community Service Order (CSO) - an order to complete at least 40 hours (now being revised) of unpaid work within the community
- Suspended Sentence Supervision Order - an option where the Court defers the sentence and the offender is given a chance to prove himself in the community.
- Voluntary Supervision - recommended by the court when the offender is deemed to be in need of counselling or treatment outside of the formal sentencing system
- Probation Order - allows the offender a form of community based rehabilitation
In addition to these non-custodial options, the Department also introduced other rehabilitative mechanisms to assist in the successful re-integration of the individual into society. These include the After-care Programme, Licence, Hostel Placement and Statutory Supervision and Parole (Act passed 1978).
The Department of Correctional Services is comprised of seven (7) Adult Correctional Centres, one (1) Adult Remand Centre, four (4) Juvenile Centres, and seventeen (17) Community Service Offices (Probation Offices) located island wide all under the directorship of the Department's chief executive officer, the Commissioner of Corrections.
In the year 2000, the Department celebrated its 25th anniversary and the Probation Offices celebrated their 50th anniversary. The anniversary was not only a period of celebration culminating in 'Corrections Week', but it was also a period of reorganization when the philosophical and conceptual functions of the Department were revisited and restructured to reflect a 21st century approach to the correctional process. This paradigm shift is reflected in newly outlined Mission and Vision Statements and Correctional Process which solidified the focus and function of the Department towards the idea of a National Rehabilitation Strategy which would concentrate on the empowerment of its clients (inmates/wards).
Today, the Department has three (3) core functional areas:
- Custodial Services (Adults and Juveniles)
- Human Resource Management and Community Services.
These three core areas seek to provide facilities for admission, incarceration and welfare of inmates and wards; to administer the probation, parole and hostel services operating in the community and to provide the necessary reports that will assist the Courts to make informed decisions in selected cases; to implement rehabilitation programmes for inmates, offenders and wards including educational programmes, individual group counselling, spiritual/religious instruction and other treatment programmes; and to develop, implement and evaluate procedures to ensure fiscal responsibility.
As the Department forges into the post-twentieth century it will continue to develop and implement strategies towards a modern correctional process. We are establishing special rehabilitation projects, computerizing data sources and reviewing needed health personnel and policies. The Department of Correctional Services is determined to move strategically into enhanced client supervision and public safety, thus enabling the successful achievement of its vision of a "therapeutic environment" for its clients and a "more peaceful, caring and productive society".