Glenroy Sinclair, Assignment Coordinator
Convicted murderer Earl Pratt chats on his cellular phone as he walks away from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional facility yesterday. Pratt was released on parole after serving 30 years of a death sentence that was commuted to life imprisonment.- Norman Grindley/Deputy Chief Photographer
Prison authorities made arrangements for his burial on three separate occasions. This was 25 years ago. Yesterday, 48-year-old Earl Pratt walked free from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town.
"Of my 30 years in prison, my worst moment was the first of three times that I was taken to the condemn cell to face the gallows. They came and weighed me to determine how much weight to put on the gallows for me to hang," Pratt reminisced.
He said another set of men later came, took his measurements and told him that they were in the process of building his coffin.
"The inmates who brought the food to my cell told me they were outside digging my grave in the prison yard. Spending the nights in the condemn cell, it was at that time the reality of life struck you. Sometimes you wish you did not get into what you got involved in out a street. Sometime you wish you did change your life" Pratt told The Gleaner, in an exclusive interview yesterday.
It was a tough experience for him, but the Trench Town Comprehensive High past student said his body was in prison, but his mind was always outside of the institution.
"I see people come here (prison) and get crazy within months. I keep my mind active by writing at least three letters per week and over 300 per year. Right now I am in the process of writing a book about my 30 years in prison," said Pratt, who appeared from behind the high walls of the prison, dapperly dressed in a brown suit and hat to match, completed with a pair of brown shoes.
Sporting dark glasses, the clean shaven Pratt openly apologised to the family of Everton 'Junior' Missick, for whose death he and Ivan Morgan were convicted in December 1977. Morgan died in prison of natural causes in 1996.
"I want to say sorry to the family of the deceased for what happened 30 years ago. If it was not for them, I would not have been free today," Pratt told a group of journalists outside the gate of the prison.
He intends to focus on giving motivational talks to young people, particularly those at the primary school level. The former death-row inmate believes he can make the connection to help young people lead a crime-free life.
While incarcerated at the St. Catherine facility, Pratt was able, through a football programme, to help rehabilitate a number violent inmates and reduce the crime level at that maximum security facility.
The Privy Council in the United Kingdom recommended in 1994, in a landmark ruling that became applicable in other Caribbean territories, that Pratt and Morgan, who were on death row for more than five years after their conviction, should not be hanged and commuted their sentence to life. The Privy Council cited a breach of their constitutional right.
Pratt applied for parole in February 2005 and the process was finally completed yesterday. He will celebrate his 48th birthday on July 15.