Thu | Oct 6, 2022

Ex-convict urges Gov’t to create brighter future for youth

Published:Friday | September 23, 2022 | 12:08 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer

A former inmate is urging the Government to pump more resources and effort into programmes to steer young boys clear of the prison system. The 27-year-old ex-convict pointed out that many boys were being recruited to commit crimes by negative...

A former inmate is urging the Government to pump more resources and effort into programmes to steer young boys clear of the prison system.

The 27-year-old ex-convict pointed out that many boys were being recruited to commit crimes by negative influences in their inner-city communities and that, in some instances, they engaged in such activities because of the struggles faced as a result of their poor socio-economic background.

Nelson*, who was imprisoned at age 19 after being convicted of simple larceny, spent six of the nine months to which he was sentenced behind bars and likened it to “life in hell”.

He regrets the circumstances which led to his arrest.

Although he did not get the chance to attend secondary school because of poverty, Nelson had always harboured dreams of becoming a soldier.

However, with those dreams dashed, his criminal record is also preventing him from gaining employment.

This has caused him to be trapped in the cycle of poverty as he stays at home and relies heavily on the generosity of relatives locally and overseas.

“Nowhere inna Jamaica no take [people with] criminal record. Nowhere,” he said, noting that the frustration has tested his mental fortitude.

DELAY IN EXPUNGING RECORDS

His lament comes amid fresh concerns over the delay some ex-convicts are experiencing in having their criminal records expunged. The justice ministry and the police’s criminal records office are being overwhelmed by some 2,000 applications for expungement with Justice Minister Delroy Chuck indicating that this is partly caused by a difficulty in locating some files at the police’s criminal record office.

But despite having doors closed in his face, Nelson is determined to avoid a second stint behind bars.

“Me, now, nah go take up badness or contract killing. Me know youth weh do it. The community weh me live, people will more influence you fi do it and say, ‘Yow, go fi dah boy deh’, and you can’t say no. You have fi move like you tough, but at the end of the day, me nuh wah do dem ting deh,” he told The Gleaner.

“But more while when me bruk, me haffi a say, ‘Jesus, God. Wah mi a go do now?’” he added.

Nelson has received training in auto mechanics and construction and is hoping to land a job soon.

He has expressed concern for other former inmates as the life of crime while living in poverty can be very enticing, he said.

He is also worried about impressionable youngsters in the nation’s slums.

He theorised that contract killings could be on the rise as many youngsters have taken up the offers.

“Only thing, it don’t pay for long,” he said, adding that if young ex-convicts who have been rehabilitated cannot get a job solely because of their criminal antecedents, they would be forced to return to committing crimes.

Nelson said that many youngsters are in need of assistance and a guiding light in his North Central St Andrew community, but they have nowhere to turn. Many, he added, were being turned away by potential employers just because of their addresses.

“Me just wah the Government know what di youths dem a face and get some work fi the youths dem,” he added.

asha.wilks@gleanerjm.com