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…specialists hope to improve the lives of ex-offenders, addicts
A group of Guyanese professionals are hoping to turn the tide for society’s ‘outcasts’ with the construction and operationalisation of a Behaviour Modification Center just off the Soesdkye-Linden Highway. The Center will target the rehabilitation of ex-offenders, recovering addicts and anyone desirous of changing their approach to life for the better.
The man behind the idea is Wendell Jeffrey, an ex-offender who later pursued higher education in theology, psychology and behaviour modification while devoting much of his time to developing strategies to help those in need of rehabilitation. He is now enrolled for his Masters in Psychology online at JAIN University, India.
“I’m an ex-offender myself — 25 years to life. I was a drug dealer,” Jeffrey told the newspaper. “When I was incarcerated I realised that I was a little more educated than the average inmate in the prison. I told God, ‘God if you keep me in prison I’ll be the best inmate and if you let me go I’ll be the best ex-offender’. So, I started this programme as a commitment that I made to God.”
Now, plans are moving apace for the building of a nature-friendly centre on 10 acres of land off the Soesdyke-Linden Highway with the capacity to hold approximately 60 persons. When completed the vision is that professionals such as social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, health workers, educators and others will be on-site to hold regular sessions with ex-offenders, recovering addicts, juvenile delinquents and anyone desirous of a reset in life.
Jeffrey said that he has realised that simply telling persons that their behaviour or choices are unhealthy doesn’t always help. Even when a person knows that their actions and choices may lead to their detriment, many often act impulsively nonetheless because of environmental influences or urges that seem uncontrollable.
For most persons, Jeffrey explained, this is caused by negative influences at a young age or poor decisions made while young. Though some may want to change for the better, the guidance they need to do so is often lacking.
The behaviour modification efforts will consist of cognitive reorientation which is the use of techniques that help people notice and change their negative thinking patterns, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a psychological approach that involves analyzing strategies to help individuals reach a personal goal.
A recent GYD $500,000 grant from the Small Business Bureau (SBB) will help to make construction of the Center a reality, though efforts had already begun with the use of available materials.
The general mission of the Behaviour Modification Center will be guided by the acronym VHESS. It stands for Vocational Training, Housing, Education, Substance Abuse and Spirituality — a holistic approach to rehabilitation. The template is adopted from similar programmes offered in the United States.
Meanwhile, those participating will engage in farming, animal husbandry, mechanic work, upholstery, horticulture and other vocational training especially to help ex-offenders get back into the working world. Ex-offenders serious about changing their lives with no place to go after prison will also be accommodated at the facility until they can branch out on their own.
“This holistic approach is probably the first of its kind to ex-offenders rehabilitation. So, what we’re doing is creating a template for CARICOM,” Jeffrey said, noting that he has provided consultation for CARICOM in the area of crime and security in the past.
The intention is to partner with the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security and the Ministry of Home Affairs for the referral of persons who may benefit from the assistance offered. Persons from the general public can also choose to attend programmes. Jeffrey has already commenced discussions with Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn and National security advisor to the President, Gerry Gouveia.
There are also plans to partner with learning institutions to provide various levels of education to those lagging behind. Regarding spirituality, persons will be encouraged to align with whatever religion they subscribe to as Jeffrey explained that persons practising a spiritual belief often hold themselves to high morals. However, persons are free to be non-aligned with a religious belief if they so choose.
“It’s not just religion or it’s not just vocational training. When a person leaves our facility, they will leave there as well-rounded as possible with skillsets so that they can better manage, notwithstanding that they have the stigma of being incarcerated or being an addict,” Jeffrey said.
The Behaviour Modification Center is guided by a board of professionals and comes under the Practical Christianity Ministries, an organisation registered in the United States and Guyana.
It is hoped that the nature-friendly Center just off the Soesdyke-Linden Highway will be completed by 2022. However, the project still requires an additional $1.5 million to be completed to the desired standard.
Persons wishing to donate to the initiative or to join in as a business partner can contact Jeffrey at +592 647 9007.