Treasured prison visits at Christmas

Published: Monday | December 30, 2013 Comments 0
Inmates had a treat as they were allowed visits by their spouses and children at the annual family day held adjacent to the Tower Street Correctional Centre last Thursday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
Inmates had a treat as they were allowed visits by their spouses and children at the annual family day held adjacent to the Tower Street Correctional Centre last Thursday. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Jameslooked down at his wooden creations, the gifts he planed to give to his son and the child's mother as they visit him at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in Kingston.

"Five months now mi in here. This is my first Christmas visit," said James.

He was one of the first group of inmates to receive family members two Thursdays ago as the Lay Magistrates' Association of Kingston and the Department of Correctional Services joined forces for the third annual Christmas visit and family fun day at the correctional institution.

Sure, there were rides and games for the children, but the main goal was to visit the brothers, fathers, sons and siblings who were in prison for the season.

"We take this very seriously," said Custos of Kingston Steadman Fuller. "You can't forget it because this is an event that has to do with reintegration and rehabilitation."

loved ones' arrivals

When the first batch of loved ones arrived, even the face of the most stoic prisoner lit up.

"Wha happen? Yuh nuh memba me?" asked one inmate, his fears quickly extinguished as his daughter, arms outstretched, yells "Daddy!" rushing to embrace him.

The sheer numbers did not give them much time, but they spent it wisely, catching up on the latest family news and having photos taken by the prison officials.

"They get to send them to their loved ones," explained superintendent in charge of the facility, Baldwin Collins.

He said the visits are held during seasons when the children are not in school.

"The inmates look forward to this," he said. "They are always on their best behaviour because they don't want to jeopardise this (the visit). And it makes our job easier too."

For the five months that James has been incarcerated, he learned woodwork. He gets out in 2015, and is looking to be self-employed.

"Mi can do mi woodcarving at mi yard and anybody mek an order I can fill it," he said. "In fact, I've got an order for a savings pan (dolphin-shaped like the one for his son). So as soon as I finish it, I can send it out and my mother will collect the money for me."

Dennisis one of the luckier inmates. He gets regular visits from his mother and three children.

"They come by during feeding day and otherwise, but it's nice to see them during Christmas too," he noted.

Between 350 and 380 inmates received visitors. But with a population of over 1,600, the majority of prisoners had no visitors.

"We try to contact their relatives but it's hard sometimes," explained Collins. "Sometimes the relatives go abroad, some die."

names changed to conceal identities.


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