Sun | Jan 22, 2017

Women prisoners shine with jewellery project

Published:Monday | September 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Some of the jewellery on display during last Friday's art and craft exhibition mounted by inmates of the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre, St Catherine, in collaboration with Stand Up Jamaica and the HEART Trust/NTA. PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPHER SERJU

Christoper Serju, Gleaner Writer

IF THE exhibition of jewellery and accessories crafted by inmates in Jamaica's only adult penal institution for women is anything to go by, the rehabilitation process at the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre, St Catherine, is well and truly under way.

The handiwork of the inmates was put on display last Friday at the prison. It represented the culmination of an eight-week training course in Beaded Jewellery and Accessories, sponsored by Stand Up Jamaica and certified by HEART Trust/NTA, for which 19 inmates and one correctional officer were presented with certificates.

The craft items displayed for sale were made by the inmates during training, with some of them providing hand-made business cards to potential patrons in order to enhance their marketing opportunities.

IMPRESSED WITH WORK

Raymond Williams, superintendent in charge at Fort Augusta, was very impressed with the work of his charges.

"I'm excited to know that I am part of the rehabilitation programme at an institution where a lot of people believe that once you come here, you are dumped, and to see how well these inmates did," Williams told The Gleaner.

"They absorbed this sort of training to produce quality items that meet market standard," he said.

"I'm feeling really good, and not only [about] the standard, but the type of skills that were involved. It is telling me that all is not lost and that there is a lot more that can be done if we are just committed to the task."

Another source of pride for Williams is that one inmate scored 49 points out of a possible 50, with the others scoring between 46 and 48.

NOT ENOUGH FUNDING

While the Department of Correctional Services is committed to rehabilitation with inmates hungry for skills training, there is just not enough funding to pursue all the programmes, director of rehabilitation Vanna Lawrence said, citing the need for more public-private sector partnerships.

"Anything you offer in Fort Augusta and most of the other institutions is oversubscribed, especially among the female population. They want to learn. We have found that it is impossible to run our programmes from the GoJ (Government of Jamaica) budget, so I would appeal to Jamaica to partner with us, especially corporate Jamaica," Lawrence said.

"Partner with us. Help us with your time and resources because we have ideas. We have persons who are willing to participate in any programme that falls within our strategy," she added.

Orville Thomas, manager of the HEART Trust/NTA's LEAP centre, was so impressed by the quality of work displayed, he told the inmates that while he could not make promises, he was inspired to help them further.

"We are really thinking about how we can do another phase of the programme in terms of career guidance and entrepreneurial strategies that can assist you in moving the training to another level to market and for doing promotions," he told them.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com