From criminal to motivational speaker
Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
The Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), which provides services in poor and volatile communities, has been a source of hope for many persons, including 53-year-old Lyndene Champayne, who was on death row for 14 years and spent 24 years behind bars.
Champayne is from the community of Tower Hill in Olympic Gardens.
"I am from a suffering family. My mother was a domestic helper and my father worked at KSAC, but my father left my mother with five of us and it was rough, trust me. I just never see no way out other than violence," he said.
"I went to school, but I wasn't gravitating to learning and there came my downfall. My friends and I went to rob a man and, unfortunately, he lost his life. I really regret it, because our intention was just to rob him and, not to kill him. I was later charged for murder," he said.
"I regret it so much that for 14 years I didn't laugh. I can't recall laughing for a long time, because there was nothing to smile about," he said.
The former prisoner said that he had to find innovative ways to maintain his sanity as his living conditions sometimes were overwhelming.
"You have to be strong to keep sane inna dat place, because if you nuh strong you become suicidal or you do some bad tings. Mi see man come in like inna di morning and kill dem self by evening fi come. A just God keep mi," he said.
"You are allowed only five minutes of sunlight, and sometimes you nuh get none at all. You know the little butter dish, that was our meal, either little crush banana wid saltfish or wi nuh get nothing at all because food nuh allowed in deh so," he shared.
He recalled that before he went to prison he couldn't read or write. However, after teaching himself he shared that he has improved immensely.
"Before me go prison, if mi name deh pon a piece a bulla mi would eat it and not even know seh a mi name, but while behind bars, mi read di Bible, mi read Gleaner, books, anything mi could read mi try to read. So is really teach mi teach myself tings," he said.
"I started writing poems, because it was an avenue through which I could express myself and keep sane, and I won a medal at a culture show after I was released," he said.
A TURN FOR THE BETTER
He was released from prison in 2001. Champayne said that after making a link with the CSJP, his life took a turn for the better, as they provided a platform where he could encourage others through the group 'Men with a Message'. This is a group of men who give motivational speeches, spreading the message of crime prevention.
"I go around to schools and target especially young boys that badness don't pay. I have also learnt to sew and I am a very good tailor. My aim really is to help and motivate persons. If I go to a gathering and there are 200 persons there and I touch just one person, then I'm ok," he declared.