Former Minister of The People and Social Development under the People's Partnership Government Dr Glen Ramadharsingh, in strongly condemning the housing of the mentally ill and socially displaced in cages at the Transformed Life Ministry (TLM) in Arouca, has made a startling new revelation about the said organisation.
Speaking with the Guardian Media Ramadharsingh said during his tenure as minister in 2013/2014 concerns were raised as to the methodologies and it was dealt with.
"There was monitoring and evaluations and at some point the ministry had to terminate them in a contractual arrangement and if anything at all the ministry did not get into any long term arrangement," Ramadharsingh said.
He said in dealing with the plague of socially displaced people, he did in fact tour the said facility but did not see any cages, handcuffs, signs of torturing example tasers and batons.
"Any level of human degradation needs to be condemned and dealt with by the authorities," he said. "In my own experience I was there in 2014 but left early in 2014 but I did the majority of the work in 2013. At that time we were engaging in stakeholders to help with the socially displaced and this was in fact an institution that we have had arrangements with. I did at that time tour the facility and a lot of monitoring and evaluation was taking place especially with regards to auditing the facility as there was a new engagement in a pilot project. I don't know what would have come after I left and the partnership minister came in."
He adds: "This is six years after...there was a point in time where the prime minister took the portfolio and then another partnership minister and then a PNM Minister for three or four years so I am really not in sync with what is happening there now but this is a sad development and I condemn it totally and I ask for the relevant authorities to deal with it in an appropriate manner."
On January 31, 2014 during a sitting in The Parliament, Ramadharsingh disclosed the works done by the Transformed Life Ministry in dealing with the socially displaced.
The Ministry, he said, was established by the pastor, who is currently in police custody, an ex-prisoner.
"While in prison, he (referring to the Pastor) received Jesus Christ as his personal saviour and his life was transformed. Following his discharge from prison, (the pastor's name called) became a Minister of Gospel of Jesus Christ and embarked upon a mission to aid the poor and the destitute, to transform lives of people," Ramadharsingh said.
He then revealed then that 57 street dwellers that were picked up last Christmas (Christmas 2013) were residing at the Transformed Life Ministry, "The good work that is being done there, Madam Deputy Speaker, has never been touched by any government in the 50-year history of T&T. This is the first time that street dwellers have been picked up, are cared for and are being rehabilitated back into society."
"We have, in fact, three persons who are working in the capital city, 12 persons who are renting and have jobs in and around T&T and we have five families that have been reunited. We have intervened to give homes to the homeless, for 120 persons in T&T, who were living in squalor in the streets. And, therefore, we were very proud to pave the yards and construct drains around the Transformed Life Ministry to the tune of $487,255," he further disclosed in The Parliament.
According to the Transformed Life Ministry's website, it seeks to rehabilitate ex-prisoners and deportees through creating a safe and peaceful environment. The organisation provides shelter, food, clothing, counselling, and a number of skills development and training programs.
TLM offers a three-month “resting period” in which ex-prisoners are housed in one of the nine housing units. During this time they are counselled and encouraged to “rest and meditate” and have a choice among a number of training programs for their personal development. Counselling sessions are mandatory and after the three-month period, they are re-evaluated by their assigned counselor to determine whether they have been satisfactorily rehabilitated to return to their families and re-enter into the community.
Part of the process to reintegrate the ex-inmates into the community is by slowly acclimatizing them to the public, re-introducing them to the feeling of not being confined or locked away; they will be allowed from time to time to run errands within close proximity if the facility or taken on supervised outings.
TLM also attempts to reunite the ex-convicts with their families since, many times; families disown them because of their socially unacceptable lifestyles.
The Ministry encourages the ex-prisoners’ children to visit on assigned days, in order to develop and grow strong bonds with their parents. Furthermore, TLM has incorporated an outreach programme where counsellors try to close the gap of anger and anguish that separates ex-prisoners and their victims. The Ministry additionally teaches a series of trades and self improvement courses.
Story by: RHONDOR DOWLAT-ROSTANT