Something right on the ‘Horizon’ - Prison staff giving hope to inmates
Since the installation of Delroy Chuck as the Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, Kingston in particular, has been abuzz with activities for justices of the peace.
Chuck has mandated his ministry to develop formal and international programs so that we justices of the peace can be more effective in carrying our duties.
Within one week, I had two activities - a two-day comprehensive training in restorative practices, and a visit to the Horizon Remand Centre.
From the knowledge I gained and the subsequent visit to Horizon, I was able to formulate two parallels:
1. Those inmates at the remand centre who have made up their minds to give up and are ready to die and;
2. Those who have turned suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment and are searching for a meaning to live against all odds.
Today, my focus is on the second group.
Quite clearly, the majority of inmates at Horizon are searching for a reason to live and I believe that it has to do with the staff at Horizon headed by Marcia Cummings-Page, a superintendent in the correctional services.
I am still taken aback by the way in which she and her staff demonstrate
ultimate leadership while at the same time showing love, respect and compassion for all inmates.
Gone are the days of dictatorial leadership with disrespect. Quite clearly, the staff has learnt that effective governance through motivation gives the desired result.
I recall an inmate interrupted Cummings-Page and asked: "Sup, when I am leaving this place?" She turned, looked at him and with a genuine smile and soft tone and said: "As soon as the court says you are to go, I will ensure that you go."
You could see the beam of glee, the confident look and feeling of importance on his face. Another inmate, when we stopped at his cell, he had his shirt dangling in his hands and Cummings-Page commanded him in a compassionate tone: "You can put on your shirt since it's in your hands." He smiled and said, "Yes, Ma'am", as he proceeded to do so.
One inmate, being held for deportation, complained about his time there and she again, waited patiently for him to express himself and share his sorrow with us. All he needed was a listening ear.
One inmate in the sick bay area had on displayed his girlfriend's photo, his children as well as other relatives and friends. He also had a small fan and a radio.
Quite clearly, he has a meaning to live and hence his calm and quiet demeanour. The smile he flashed at us warmed our hearts.
The treatment they receive at Horizon gives them hope. That is how powerful compassion is when you show it to the ones who need is most.
How could I forget to speak about the kitchen? I could not believe that they were inmates busily cooking up a storm for all to enjoy. That spirit of pride and self-worth was the order from the menu.
The food smelled so good, the pots clean, the kitchen floor clean, everything in order. We were all amazed. Inasmuch as they are in a confined area, you could see they had a meaning to live, maybe it's the only and best job they will have and they have decided to make the best use of it.
Once an individual's search for a meaning is successful, it not only renders him happy but also gives him the capability to cope with suffering.
If this pleasure principle becomes unreal and he loses hope, it could be dangerous.
It is, therefore, hoped that having served their times, that they be rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities to lead normal lives without being stigmatised.
It is still surreal that I actually went to a maximum-security prison because as much as I know that I was there, I could not comprehend how come I didn't see any prisoner.
I must use this season to offer commendations to Cummings-Page and the staff of Horizon Remand Centre for their hard work in helping to diffuse the already enormous mental tension which breeds daily in the facility.
The staff and the institution must also be commended for allowing the men to maintain their dignity and restoring meaning to their lives.