AG: HAPI is here to stay, supervision is what’s needed

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Amid calls for the scrapping of an initiative where inmates convicted of serious offences are not being
properly supervised when they are brought out of the prison to work, Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin said the programme will continue.
He however conceded that the second suggestion made by members of the public is one he would more readily accept, namely, to provide better management of the work programmes for prisoners – particularly the Home Advancement Programme for the Indigent (HAPI) – which involves taking the inmates outside the jail to work within the wider society.
It is alleged that inmates who are brought outside to work with the HAPI programme and for other prison initiatives, are being allowed (or are so poorly supervised they are able) to engage in activities which prisoners are prohibited from doing – such as sex.
Referring to calls by those who said too many corrupt practices are allowed, thus the programme should be scrapped, Benjamin said, “That is a very unfortunate call.”
He added, “This is a social programme with a great initiative. Persons who otherwise would not have been able to have their own homes will get their own homes. What is necessary, if in fact what is said is true, is that there should be greater supervision and monitoring of the activities of persons, inmates who are involved in this programme,” he said.
The minister said the allegations have not been verified, but even if they turn out to be true, it would hurt many people to scrap the HAPI programme.
“It is an excellent idea, the HAPI programme – it has been a great social service – especially at the lower end of society,” he said.
The HAPI initiative was started midway through the first term of the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party administration. Over a dozen homes were renovated or built for indigent people with prison labour, using materials provided either by the government or donors within society.

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