The Saddest Day Of my Life
It was on the 23rd July 2014, that I had the opportunity to visit the Port of Spain penitentiary. Though this was not my first visit, it was the first time that I had the opportunity to personally witness, what can only be described as, modern-day slavery. This time they were all assembled for the visit of Bob Marley’s granddaughter – Donisha Prendergast. This visit was organized by the wonderful prison staff, with the help of Bro. David Mohammed, as a means of inspiring the occupants there. Though it was rather hurriedly arranged, it was truly very well-organized.
For the occupants this was clearly, for the most part, a special occasion. It provided them with an opportunity to meet, listen to, and display their abundant talent before ‘Reggae Royalty’. For me it was a sad moment indeed. It was truly one of the saddest moments of my life. As I surveyed the assembly my heart sunk deeply, as I gazed as far into their souls as their protective barriers would allow me to.
I saw men, who looked like they should have been in a mental hospital, in a place where the help they obviously needed was not available. I saw men of all ages clapping and singing merrily along with the highly gifted in-house band. Meanwhile their spirits spoke of despair and hopelessness. I looked into smiling faces seething with anger. Enough anger to make me wonder how the prison staff was able to avoid a massive explosion. It was truly beyond my limited comprehension. The staff says they are lucky, I could not agree more.
I saw men in their prime with no place to exercise their manhood. There were no football fields, no basketball courts or gym. There was nothing, as far as I could see, that would enable them to take ‘a sweat’ as a means of release. How all these men could survive day after day in this cramped, claustrophobic environment was way beyond me. But those are not the things that depressed me most. No! What deeply depressed me was the demographics of the residents. Yes, the demographics.
Slavery Never Ended
As we drove out of the compound, after the hearty meal ordered by the rather accommodating staff and much healthy discussion, I could restrain my
self no longer. I protested: “This does not represent the demographics of crime in our society.” With the tears that I fought hard to restrain no longer there, I angrily protested. “This is not right! Where are all the other ethnic groups? Those who are the mastermind of the under world? Why are they not represented there?’ Why is this prison filled with 99% of the occupants being of African origin, and a spattering of ‘poor’ (my thoughts) East Indians?
I was awakened to the reality that all the talk about reformation of the prison system is just that – talk. It was the first time that I truly understood that slavery has never ended. No, it has just transformed itself. Today, instead of the slaves being held up on the plantation working for the master for free, they are kept in walled facilities. Here they continue to provide free labour and bring much wealth to their former slave masters.
In Tomorrow’s article we will look at how the prison system is designed to enrich others, while depriving the inmates we are, supposedly, seeking to reform.