Thu | Oct 29, 2020

I missed chance to be a dad - George Williams reflects on lost moments, five-decade incarceration

Published:Tuesday | June 30, 2020 | 12:20 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
George Williams speaking with The Gleaner at his home in Ivy district, Ewarton, St Catherine, on Sunday as he spent his first weekend in 50 years as a free man.
George Williams speaking with The Gleaner at his home in Ivy district, Ewarton, St Catherine, on Sunday as he spent his first weekend in 50 years as a free man.

It was George Williams’ first Sunday as a free man, and his family made certain that he had a hearty dinner and experienced the warmth and togetherness of being at home in Ewarton, St Catherine.

The 71-year-old was released last week after spending five decades in custody at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town without a trial after being identified in an Independent Commission of Investigations report among 146 inmates locked up for years – some for decades – without facing a judge.

Williams was arrested and charged with killing another man during a violent attack on a family driving through his St Catherine community in July 1970, but the then 20-year-old was declared unfit to plead.

Had he not been imprisoned, Williams, who earned his keep by buying meat from Kingston abattoirs and reselling it downtown, would have sought to earn a more liveable income and start a family.

“Mi did wah have children, but mi never get di chance,” he said softly as he spoke with The Gleaner. “Mi cyah have no children again. Di age gone.”

Journeying back to his first night battling bedbugs in prison 50 years ago, Williams erupted into laughter, saying, “Whole heap a chink bite mi.

“Mi couldn’t lie down. Mi haffi stand up di whole night,” he added.

Although, he was moved to another cell the following day, he would have no respite from the insects.

During his prolonged imprisonment, Williams recalls hearing the cells of the maximum-security prison open and close roughly at the same time daily.

“I walk out di cell, refresh myself at di bathroom, and all that. If yuh fi have yuh clothes change, yuh change di clothes and wait till supper time come, yuh guh fi yuh supper,” he shared.

Besides the routine of prison life, he remembered when evangelists issued Bibles and his short stint as a farmer.

“Mi sow di pepper seed dem in a spot along the fence. Di pepper tree bear successfully,”said the elderly man.

Williams also remembered that his mother once visited him on his birthday, April 23, and took him fried chicken. He would look forward to her visits to lift his spirits.

“Yuh glad fi see yuh mother come look fi yuh, gi yuh some food fi eat and enjoy yuhself,” he said.

Jenifer Thomas, who was her caregiver until she passed away in 2009, said the heartbroken mom would talk about her second child “day in and day out”.

“Not one night we don’t have devotion where she don’t speak about George. She always prayed for him and begged God for him to come out,” Thomas told The Gleaner on Sunday.

Williams said he did not form lasting bonds with fellow inmates during his incarceration, and on a couple of occasions, he was physically assaulted, with the most recent bust-up occurring a few days before his release.

Now grey and aged, Williams’ appearance is a stark contrast to the dapper youth his younger brother, 57-year-old Roy Edie, remembers.

“I was about seven and I used to live here. The last time I saw him, he came here to look for his mother. Him always wear his jeans suit, and as a young youth, I remember that,” Edie said.

“Mi bredda dem and niece taking care of me,” Williams, who has no lifestyle diseases but suffers from schizophrenia, for which he is being treated, told The Gleaner.

Williams said he had constantly prayed that he would be taken to court before he died. And so the words he heard at his last court session last week Wednesday will remain with him: “This man is a free man.”

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com