No laughing matter

No laughing matter

The 80 Netherlands Antillean guilders a week or NAf. 2 (US $1.11) per hour participants in the renewed inmate work programme will earn (see Monday paper) may not seem like much, although it is still 25 per cent of the current minimum wage. Mind you, these are –after all – mostly convicts serving sentences, who normally receive just NAf. 1.25 per hour for work in prison. What’s more, providing transport, ankle bracelets with electronic surveillance, accompanying guards, etc., entail additional expenses for government as well.

One could argue that this creates cheap labour and thus unfair competition for small contractors and their employees. However, the amount and scope of projects will obviously be limited, while any work for private businesses may lead to a higher renumeration. The 50 per cent extra allowance for working on Saturday, Sunday or holidays led to some hilarity within the community, as it would seem every day in jail is pretty much the same.

Nevertheless, this is a good initiative whereby detainees who can now learn trades such as welding, carpentry and mechanical repair in prison get the opportunity to apply these skills in practice. Doing so could greatly enhance their chances of finding a job on release from the penitentiary.

The Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI already has experience with a similar programme in the past, so there is every reason to believe things will go smoothly. Remember that the intention is to make society safer by reducing the number of repeat offenders and revolving-door criminals.

So, please try not to make a spectacle for own amusement out of prisoners who will soon be seen doing valuable work out there. Their successful rehabilitation is ultimately in everyone’s best interest and certainly no laughing matter.

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