Barbados Prison Boss says jail is no joke

Barbados Today:-   Do not be fooled by images of prisoners smiling when the walk out of the court, life behind bars in no joke.

This warning to would-be offenders from Superintendent of Prisons Lieutenant Colonel John Nurse, who said he was concerned that the images of convicts smiling and gesturing to the crowd as they leave court may be giving young people the wrong impression about life at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Dodds.

Nurse said such displays of bravado, often influenced by Hollywood depictions of prison, normally came from those who had been convicted for the first time and were about to have their first experience of what life behind bars is like.

However, the top warden said, that the show for the crowd is over the minute the convicts step into the prison vehicle and they begin their lives in jail.  

“I think that the photographs that you see or the scenes that you see at the court are new people coming to prison. I don’t think you ever see new persons coming off of one of those vehicles at my reception area high-fiving anybody or smiling and waving,” the prison chief told the media this morning following a promotion ceremony for 54 officers at the St Philip correction facility.

“It is a completely different story when you come to prison. So all of those youngsters who glamorize prison because of what they see on television are sadly mistaken.”

The Lieutenant Colonel explained that anyone who believes jail is glamorous is sadly mistaken, since inmates lose all their freedom the moment they leave the courtroom.

“You have lost your ability to determine when you are going to get up, when you are going to go to bed, what you are going to eat, what you are going to do or when you are going to do it. There are so many freedoms that you sacrifice. So the moment of glamorization because you have been sent up to prison by the court and you can wave at your friends comes to an end very quickly once you get inside that bus,” Nurse said.

The prison chief also touched on the high recidivism rate, saying that this was largely due to the fact that former inmates return to the environment which fostered their criminal behaviour in the first place. However, he said the level of first-time offenders also needed attention.

“We have to determine to what extent the environment has contributed to the relapse because quite often when a prisoner is released they return to the same community where they started their life of crime,” he said.

“As it relates to the status on crime, I think if you do a careful analysis it is not only repeat offenders because we are having a lot of new people in crime. I think that the true analysis is trying to determine why that is happening and not necessarily trying to put blame on repeat offending. There must be a more comprehensive approach in determining what is leading to criminal activity,” he added, while stressing there there was only so much the prison system could do to turn around the lives of inmates.

“Rehabilitation is individualized. It is a process. It is not that you go in and something happens. We have to work with that person from the time they come in to the point they leave and sometimes even after they leave. What we do with the persons here is significant and we try to help everyone. Of course our resources are limited and those resource limitations can have implications for how we do our work. However, we do also have a number of volunteers that come in and help us with the prisoners. So it is not only what the prison service is doing but it also must include the churches and volunteers to prepare the inmates for leaving,” he stressed.