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THROW AWAY THE KEY By Rae Samuel

posted 29 Nov 2016, 12:54 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Nov 2016, 12:56 ]
The news last Sunday night carried a response by a prison officer to a story by a 'law and order'' talk show host, which alleged that customers in a bank were given a scare. The fact of the matter, which the officer did not deny, is that an accused awaiting trial was taken to the bank to conduct personal business. Without being handcuffed. Not being 'civilly dead' a term used, or used to be used to describe convicted persons maintains certain constitutional rights. And as the officer explained there is a process of vetting.

Why has this resonated with me? I hope said host and his sidekick do not visit upcoming track and field meets, basketball games, cross country race or cultural events in the near future. If they do they will see 'lads' from the Youth Training Centre at all these events and God knows we may end up with a lock down at the Hasely Crawford Stadium or Maloney Indoor facility. Do we not see the calypsonians from the Carrera prison at Carnival time? Are they supposed to sing in handcuffs?

Through a programme I have worked on these young men have in the last 8 years visited/participated in Pan Am Jr. Championships, Secondary Schools basketball, rugby tournaments, Caroni Cross country championships, all the N.A.A A's events. They walk around, interact, go and warm up by themselves, go to the call rooms, argue with their coaches - like any other athlete. Not one has ever attempted to run away or been involved in fracas.

Besides I have no idea what 95% of them are in there for and that is not false piety. If you start with that outlook, that somehow as learners they are different, your programme is doomed and they will pick it up. Also, what can a visitor or tutor do about the judicial process? So why bring it up? Why 95%? Some may, as time passes and a level of comfort builds, volunteer information.

What the view expressed by the talk show host reflects is the 'right -wing' approach that says we must 'lock up dey ar...and throw away de key'' And upon eventual release what have we created? Those who imagine that these young men and women at the corresponding facility are 'wotless’, criminal by birth and stupid' are seriously mistaken.

There is a book produced by Debbie Jacobs, "Wishing for Wings'' in which young men talk about their life experiences before and in prison. It is as interesting as anything written by Eldridge Cleaver or George Jackson though not as politically weighty. I had/have serious concerns about the reason and motive for producing the book but it is well worth a read.

These lads trim their own hair, lime in the multi-purpose hall, do photography and gamble their toiletries. You can come in the game with cheap soap, get angry and get locked down, go out on day release work programmes and attend day classes. They see through the limitations of the institutions and will call you one side and show the unprofessionalism of a particular guard.

My information is that with the coming of the Children’s Authority legislation there is a shift to running the institution as a junior prison and not as a Youth Training Centre. This would, in the view of many, including many officers, be a retrograde step...

But let us not imagine that we could handcuff, shoot or beat into submission our social problems.
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