Cross-examiNATION: Too much ‘freedom’ in prison

Is prison a bed of roses for inmates? Certainly not when they have no data plan or the access code to ‘free WiFi’.

I wonder what is Reggae artiste Jah Cure’s take on this matter… He quite convincingly lamented that, in prison, ‘the livity makes me bawl’.

It seems the tables have turned, and the only trouble behind those prison walls are inmates who cannot give their ice picks (or whatever they use to inflict wounds) a break.

A group of inmates at Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre, this month, went live on Facebook, pleading for improved security.

In my view, they demonstrably justified the need for proper security in our prison system, and I blame them not.

When one’s life is in danger, one’s only recourse is to seek help by all means possible.

If I had heard it from John Public, I would dispute its truth. But it is everywhere, and it is not a hushed-tone topic – ‘inmates gone live’.

I think we should now have a serious conversation about the weaknesses plaguing State-run institutions, particularly correctional centers, whose duty at the very least is to correct undisciplined behaviour.

For far too long we have been accepting mediocre and flippant excuses from State agents, amidst glaring failures of the institutions they manage. It is unfathomable that an institution charged with the task of rehabilitating people cannot secure its high walls.

To be frank, there are more questions to ask than answers. How did cellular phones get in the hands of inmates? Who are their suppliers? Are relatives throwing these devices across the 24-hour guarded institutions?

Let us pretend for a while that we have not heard the tales of other items – including marijuana – being at the disposal of inmates.

If prisoners have the privilege of living rent-free and connecting with the world as they used to do before their liberty was deprived, what real difference is a prison sentence?

Will they have time to reflect on the tribulations they have caused others? Are they able to stay from a distance and operate their ‘missions’? Is a prison sentence the end to a victim’s cry when perpetrators have access to the world behind bars?

I think it is duplicitous to make culpable, the Director of Correctional Services who, in my view, did not only inherit these deep-seated breaches, but who also has the agony of dealing with a staff that is less than innocent of the apparent infractions. If you ask me, the issue calls for a systematic solution.

The challenges facing correctional institutions span successive administrations – many of which played a deaf ear to the cries for improvement.

I maintain the view that prisoners have rights, and should be properly cared for and rehabilitated whilst they are in the State’s custody.

But I also believe every man must pay for the wrongs he has done or caused. Enjoying access to weapons and the privilege of ‘going live’ while in prison are both synonymous with being free.

The authorities, I dare say, must act now – not later – to arrest those levels of ‘freedom’ being enjoyed in our prisons.

Alexander L. Shaw is an educator and an attorney-at-law. The views he expressed are not necessarily those of The Beacon. Email your feedback to him at Legalservices.alexandershaw@gmail.com and to The Beacon at jamaicabeaconnews@gmail.com


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