Phones tear down prison walls - Family, friends get unimpeded 24/7 access to inmates
"Add mi and watsapp 8763#####6," a 19-year-old convict boldly posted on his Facebook page from behind bars.
While the authorities struggle to find effective ways to keep cell phones out of the hands of inmates, family and friends revel in the ease with which they can reach their loved ones. And smartphones have made instant communication much easier. They can talk to and even see each other at the touch of a screen.
A Gleaner investigation has uncovered more than a dozen inmates at the island's largest penal facility, the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, who have been making frequent contact with the outside world through social media and other communication apps.
On January 17, an inmate posted a screenshot of a video call with a female via Skype. There are also screenshots of conversations via the popular WhatsApp Messenger.
The conversations delve into a range of issues, mainly updates on happenings within the circle of family and friends outside the prison walls.
"I miss spending Time with my family and ma so call friends," one inmate posted on Facebook.
Mother-son conversations feature heavily among the Facebook posts, and they usually peak around May, the month in which Mother's Day falls, with tons of tributes to moms.
"Thank yuh mama for the nine month u carry mi true," posted a 24-year-old who has been behind bars since his teen years, tagging his mother. "Sorry to let u down but its just life an life u have to face The fact of it to eXpect The unexpected."
"Ull always be my son and I love its true its just life and I thank god everyday that ur still alive," she responded.
'I'll always love you'
On another post, his mom said, "U may be somewhere I don't want u to b but ur my son and I'll always love u and everyday ur getting more handsome love u loads."
"I honoured you for everything you have done for me!!!!" he responded, to which she said, "I know hun just keep safe until ur home again."
On another prison photo, another mom commented, "It's great to see you son."
Fathers are not left out either as one dad responded, "Thank you son do love you always love you" to a Father's Day post.
While most of the conversations with family and friends seek to motivate and encourage inmates to be strong, there is no shortage of tough love.
"This is wat happen wen u mother tlk and u guys dnt listen ... reather listen to frenz ... mother know wat is best for her kids ... a talk to [name] a lot as well he never listen know is bck is against the wall ... but just tek it easy," one female commented on a post.
On another post where another Facebook user commented "I hope u learn ur lesson now. Change n make better of ur self", a convict said "bad people" played a key role in families.
"Yuh done no oh t thing go cuz if you noh have bad people ina t family you ago have some people ago do things and feel like t family a walk ova cuz," he responded.
Still, there are others who are more scathing in their messages to inmates.
"You lie with dog you must catch flee," one Facebook user posted on an inmate's wall earlier this year.
" ... You don't have nothing to offer my daughter she came to Jamaica and pick you up off the floor and put you on the map but if she was listening to me she would not catch flee because you have nothing to offer not even a proper education," she continued, "but God answer prayer."
"I never met to hurt her in. No way i dont no why these thing Are happing," he responded.
And some social media users throw even harsher barbs, heaping condemnation on inmates, who fire back with fiery, expletive-laden responses.
"Alot a uno a dream fi things happen to man bout yah but man tuff ina this [expletive] yah," one inmate posted after he had seemingly had enough.
"Suh all who a ... inbox mi and block mi a tell mi bout rotten ina prison a not even dream uno can dream that [expletive] dea," he continued. "A social media alone uno bad weh uno a pray fi see uno nah go see."
Several attempts by The Gleaner to reach Commissioner of Corrections Ina Fairweather were unsuccessful and questions emailed to her more than a month ago have not been answered.