The Department of Rehabilitative/Welfare Services strives to provide quality rehabilitative services to offenders by implementing programmes and sponsoring activities that would control offenders’ inappropriate behaviour, Minister of State for Social Development the Hon. Loretta Butler-Turner said during the Rehabilitation Week church service held at Bethel Baptist Church.

The Department’s agencies seek to protect society by helping offenders become accountable for their actions, encouraging offenders to seek employment where possible, fostering levels of higher education and addressing those persons who re-offend, Mrs. Butler-Turner said Wednesday.

The agencies within the Department of Rehabilitative/Welfare Services are the Probation Division, Welfare Division, Simpson Penn Centre for Boys and Willie Mae Pratt Centre for Girls.

Mrs. Butler-Turner said the theme for the week, Rehabilitation: Opens Doors to a New Beginning, appropriately encompasses the mission and role of the Department of Rehabilitative/Welfare Services in repairing and improving the lives of offenders and ex-offenders.

Rehabilitation Week started with a school forum at the BCPOU Hall that empowered and equipped primary and high school students with knowledge and information needed for positive transformation. A similar event will take place in South Eleuthera on November 14.

Thursday, there will be a parenting forum at C R Walker Secondary school on Baillou Hill Road that will address the topic: The Signs and Symptoms of Delinquency and How to Deal with Them.

Mrs. Butler-Turner said, “Through rehabilitation, individuals can be restored to a useful life. In this regard, the church has always been a fundamental part of our culture where offenders continue to seek refuge, spiritual guidance and fulfilment.

She explained that the church has also helped to foster trust and acceptance between the community and offenders while supporting effective reintegration of offenders in their communities.

“Although crime has been increasing in our society, the church is expected to hold to the belief that people can change,” the Minister of State said. “The church is to be commended for conducting the many programmes in the institutions and community that encourage changed behaviour.”

She recommended programmes that the church may want to consider that would further assist offenders in their goal to become law abiding citizens.

One such example Mrs. Butler-Turner promoted was restorative justice. She said this process includes the offender, victim and community. The church can be effective in restorative justice as it conducts mediation sessions between the parties and encourage victim compensation.

Other programmes the Minister of State recommended included literacy, budgeting, job coaching/placement, life skills training, mentoring and substance abuse.