What We Do
Vision On Mission addresses the challenges faced by inmates in the country’s penal institutions (prisoners), inmates who have exited the country’s penal institutions (ex-prisoners), persons returned to Trinidad and Tobago (deportees/returning nationals), and delinquent youths.
One of the groups VOM directs its attention to is that of prisoners and ex-prisoners. This group makes up most of the organization’s clientele in the re-entry, reintegration, and rehabilitation services offered.
Prisoners are all those currently within a penal institution in Trinidad and Tobago who are approaching release within the next twenty-four months. The organization provides these men and women with a specialized programme, called the In-prison Preparation for Release Programme which is geared towards preparing these individuals for life upon release. They are also encouraged to seek out Vision On Mission’s services upon release from incarceration.
Ex-prisoners are those individuals who now access VOM’s services from outside the prison walls or upon being deported back to Trinidad. They may be recently released from any one of the Region’s prisons and immediately sought access to the many services that VOM offers, or they may be what is classified as ‘socially displaced’; an individual who has been through the penal system but did not immediately seek out the services of VOM, only at a later stage as hardship befell their reintegration efforts.
The Impact of Deportation
The impact of deportation from the 1990’s until recent has revealed some astonishing stories. The question is being repeatedly asked, “Was the Ship Rider agreement a well thought out plan for the region?” In their attempt to reintegrate, reports are showing that deportees are experiencing severe difficulties in their respective societies.
Even though the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has shown considerable concern and is acting on some of the issues facing deportees, there continues to be a lack of adequate resources to meet the needs of this target group, in terms of satisfactory transitional housing, counselling, reintegration, and rehabilitation services.
The challenges faced by Deportees and how Vision On Mission provides assistance
For over fifteen (15) years, Vision On Mission has pioneered and supported the cause of deportees and has prevented many of them from becoming repeat offenders. The organization’s track record in this social sector, as a result of being out in the field and having direct experience in dealing with various cases involving persons of diverse backgrounds, gender, and a variety of offenses, can attest to our continued success rate.
Identified Challenges of Deportees in Trinidad and Tobago
Many deportees encounter major difficulties and challenges in adjusting their lives after incarceration or upon their return to Trinidad and Tobago. Some of the difficulties and challenges a deportee faces are:
- Reconnecting with their families; within the region and abroad.
- Adjusting to their new environment
- Finding employment; a large number of deportees are unskilled, need training or re-training to work within the society.
- Lack of accommodation
- Severe mental breakdown, as a result of the transition to a new environment and the separation from family or loved ones they left behind involuntarily.
- The stigma of criminal deportation
Some deportees are also plagued with substance abuse issues and other medical problems that have special dietary requirements.
According to the CARICOM Report on “Impact of Deportees on Crime and Security”, the increase in recidivism among deportees may be a result of the identified challenges previously mentioned. The report further stated as such: “In a number of Caribbean countries, criminal deportees are widely viewed as the major force driving the increasing rate of violent crime, introducing new types of crime and generally extending the criminal repertoire of local criminals. It is believed that they help to extend and intensify the transnational links of ordinary criminals, and are involved in organizing and facilitating the trafficking in illegal drugs and firearms.”
Deportees are widely viewed as presenting a new and special danger to Caribbean societies. Because of this, the Task Force has contributed much of their concentrated efforts towards this target group. Despite the difficulties in compiling accurate data amongst this group, the first issue that needs to be addressed is to properly assess the magnitude of the deportee problems throughout the Caribbean.
Deportees and Vision On Mission
Vision On Mission addresses these challenges amongst deportees through the development and implementation of targeted interventions and programming which have been proven to reduce the recidivism rates. The organization also compiles its own statistical data on a yearly basis which covers a deportee from initial contact on to self-sustained living.
Deportees are referred to VOM through the following avenues:
- The Social Displacement Unit at the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services
- Family members abroad
- Local family members
- Prison officials abroad
- Other agencies
It must be noted that Vision On Mission does not receive any subventions to meet the needs of this particular clientele.
Upon their return, deportees face many challenges and the costs to accommodate their successful reintegration as it relates to the identified challenges have increased.
Number of Deportees Accommodated so far at VOM
In a report published by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Unit, titled “Fiscal Year 2017 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report” View Report Here it has been determined that in the year 2017, 128 deportees from the United States of America were returned to Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2017, Vision On Mission facilitated 13 out of these 128 deportees and so far this year, the organization is currently accommodating 21 deportees.
In the past 4 years, the organization has seen a marked increase in the number of persons using our services.
How Vision On Mission assists Deportees
Since 2003, Vision On Mission has been providing the necessary support for the successful reintegration of deportees through the following programme objectives:
- To support the self-reliance of deportees
- To provide counselling and rehabilitation services after deportation, in order to facilitate resettlement into society
- To foster social acceptance
- To provide clothing, document retrieval, temporary accommodation and meals through the establishment of the organization’s in-transit facilities, etc.
The increase of deportees returning to Trinidad and Tobago demands the expansion of VOM’s services, since this is a niche commissioned market in corrections with limited suppliers who possess the experience, track record, and resources to provide similar services.
Some of the organization’s clients, however, due to their individual reintegration challenges may re-enter VOM’s programmes and services two (2) or three (3) times to avoid re-offending. Note that, the international standard for the successful reintegration of offenders is normally a minimum period of two (2) years. Vision On Mission has now embarked on a Tracer system, where for a period of three (3) to four (4) years the client is under the organization’s care, utilizing its programmes and services from at the point of deportation to the point of achieving a self-sustained lifestyle. Yet, based on service demand and given the organization’s limited financial resources, this has become rather challenging.
Delinquent Youths can be defined as young persons who display deviant behaviour early in life such as engaging in crime and violence.
Vision On Mission seeks to address these social issues that plague today’s youth by engaging them through interventions in schools, community events/activities, and other youth-based initiatives. Frequent visits are made to various schools across the Region in an effort to curb this deviant behaviour and prevent it from occurring in the first place. The organization also assists in providing lifestyle alternatives and support to aid in the transformation of delinquent youths.
VOM’s School Intervention Programme introduces school children to the concept of thinking out the consequences for actions taken, to evaluate their future, suggest methods to take in avoiding their delinquent associates, and ultimately in walking the right path. The organization’s interventions thus far has been remarkably successful in reaching approximately 60% of the schools in Trinidad and 70% of those in Tobago.