Glenn Tucker | Rehabilitation our only hope
Last week, there was an avalanche of abuse directed at MP and shadow minister Lisa Hanna. Ms Hanna had expressed concern - as is her right - about the appropriateness of murder convict Vybz Kartel continuing to record music while he is in prison.
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS), to the best of my knowledge, does not object to the recording of music in prison. In fact, there are studios and radio stations in some of our facilities. These form part of what is provided to help with the rehabilitation programme. Their rehabilitation programmes are not offered just to entertain inmates or keep them busy. For each of the programmes in their schedule, there is a rehabilitative goal that prison staff must monitor. Vybz Kartel is not in any of our rehabilitative programmes because he is an appellant and our laws exclude such persons from these programmes.
I strongly believe that when inmates engage in the liberal arts - music, drama etc - their social and cognitive skills improve.
And strong social and cognitive skills make the transition back into society much easier.
Where inmates respond to the rehabilitation programmes, the results can be very encouraging. Jah Cure was convicted of a serious crime and sent to prison. He responded well to rehabilitation, so much so that he started to create positive lyrics in prison.
Today, Jah Cure is a respected member of our artistic community. This is the DCS prison rehabilitation programme at work.
I tried to compare his work with that of Vybz Kartel, who has not benefited from our rehabilitation programme. I downloaded Fever, then decided against it. I downloaded Lipstick and realised that no reputable newspaper would print those lyrics.
Perhaps it is best if I rely on another member of his profession to sum up the main concerns in this matter. Said Queen Ifrica in the Jamaica Observer: "The powers that be need to say if Kartel is going to voice from jail, he needs to do positive songs with uplifting messages that is telling young boys that it is not cool to stab up your friend ... it is not cool for young girls to be having sex at 13 and 14 ... . That I would back. But I cannot give kudos to the negative that is being promoted."
State Minister Pearnel Charles Jr suggests that the DCS is poised for a major take-off. One in which the main focus will be on education and training, while developing a positive self-image. He has no choice. Because the old system of punishment and retribution in squalid conditions clearly has not worked. Inmates will no longer leave prison without the social and technical skills required to be a good family man and a respected community member.
This is an ambitious undertaking, but the minister is clearly taking the smart route in dealing with this challenge. He deserves the support of the entire country, because if he fails, we will feel it.