Are young prisoners reforming themselves?

From research carried out by ‘Popolin’ it appears that the majority of cases of young people with a prison sentence who were arraigned in Court on theft charges were a result of drugs, fighting, violence and drug trafficking.  We spoke to George Busuttil from the organisation Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl.

Busuttil made it clear that when those of such a young age are taken to the prison for minors this means that they would be repeat offenders. “They would often have had a brush with the law for the third or fourth time. It is rare to see a youngster be handed a prison sentence for his first offence”. He added that when crimes continue to be carried out, especially crimes of a certain weight, the process of imprisonment starts. “The problem would be long in coming. There would often be a lack of control in the family or there would be what we call inter-generational crime families where unfortunately the family gets used to living in the system from one generation to the next.”

It was explained that it is important not only to speak to young people who are in prison but also to those who have find themselves on this path. “We need to work more with young people to avoid having them end up o in jail”. He added that although a lot of work is being done to reduced the chance of young people ending up in this crime network, there is a lot which needs to be done. It is important to work with the families of prisoners in order to reduce the risk of further criminality and to break the vicious cycle.

Asked by the presenter whether young people who have been in jail haave an uncertain future, Busuttil added that unfortunately many of them do not manage to break away from this life, however the few who truly wish to start a new life manage to do so. “There are some who get such a shock from being in jail that it brings them to their senses and and they do not remain in that lifestyle.”

However, Charles Azzopardi added that only one third of prisoners attend a course to reform themselves. In his opinion the system in Malta has failed, “The system was and still is a failure, and by putting ga lot of sugar on it, it does not become sweet.”