Prison boss says education important

| 24/11/2009

(CNS): Although there are very high levels of illiteracy in the Cayman Islands prison system, some 120 inmates from both the young offenders institute as well as the male and female prisons are still participating in a number of educational courses. Those Inmates were recognised for their efforts recently during the Prisoner Learning and Development Unit’s (PLDU) third annual awards ceremony. The event took place at HMP Northward, where the Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Dr William Rattray, said that education was a critical component of sentence-planning.

However, despite its acknowledged importance, a significant number of inmates are functionally illiterate.  The inmates receiving awards had taken various vocational courses on the prisons’ education programme. Inmates received City and Guilds certification in office skills, bookkeeping and numeracy, and certificates were also presented for computer technology and sound recording courses. Some inmates were rewarded for achievements in general educational development, art, poetry, woodwork and physical development.

Rattray said prison education should not be defined just in terms of contributing to reducing recidivism, although that is a fundamental goal, but also because it is “the right thing to do”. He also spoke about the harsh realities of prison life. “Contrary to popular belief, this is far from a hotel,” the prison boss said.

The event was held in the Northward Prison Chapel. In attendance, along with the usual government officials and dignitaries, was motivational speaker Jacqueline Morris, who gave the keynote address. She encouraged inmates to maintain hope in the face of uncertainly and difficulty.  “Education is only successful if it results in the self-discovery that can change and empower you,” she said. “The greatest service you can dois to fulfil your own potential.”

She further urged them to be responsible, to be the best they can be, and to find their unique places in the world.

Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks described the ceremony as a “significant occasion”, and said he was grateful to see the progress that inmates had made. “As adults you are responsible for yourselves, and no one owes you a ticket through life. Think of the impact your situations have on your families on the outside – do you think your children are proud that you are in here?”

Comparing his own life experiences to theirs, he further advised the inmates to avoid taking shortcuts and instead to bring positive focus to personal plans. “Appreciate what you need to do, and be willing to commit to help yourselves,” he added.

Prison Director Dwight Scott presented the Director’s Award to Hasani Levy, and commended those involved in the PLDU. He congratulated those inmates who had taken advantage of the learning opportunities. Other inmate students received certificates as Most Outstanding (John Bernard), Most Improved (Allan Ebanks) and for Best Attendance (Terrance Bryan).

As drug abuse prevention is a key component of rehabilitation, Cayman Against Substance Abuse (CASA) certificates were also awarded to inmates from all three facilities for their completion of the basic drug education course.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So the moral of Twyla’s story – don’t murder people.

  2. Kee-Tee says:

    Well said Twyla, well said!

  3. Anonymous says:

    You speak the truth Twyla.

  4. Anon says:

    Compassion for the perpetrator of a crime? Compassion for a murderer? Hold their hand and guide them? Please…..

    How about the family of the murdered person. How about offering them some compassion.

    The person who died had no choice, and his family have no choice but to suffer a loss for the rest of their lives.

    Yet this man did have a choice. He chose the wrong path and is now labeled a murderer.

    Yes he was punished by the system and prison time, but maybe only now is he realising the extent of his crime. His true suffering starts now.


    • Twyla Vargas says:

      14:57  Anon  COMPASSION ?  Please, do not for one moment think that I do not understand they way you feel.  I do.  Because The murdered and the murderer are persons I was well acquainted with.  In fact the murdered young man was very dear to my heart.  However I choose to remember that when Christ walked the earth he encountered many murderers, adulterers, thieves and whores; but his decision was to forgive.

      If we take a few moments to assess our own lives,  we can come up with thoughts, and times that we ourselves are not free from having  murdered some one mentally,  if not physically.  Sure sometimes when injustice has befallen us we  feel that it is impossible to think the way that Christ did. 

      I wonder what happened when Cain killed Able, did Adam and Eve ever spoke to him again?  I do not know…….However,  life still continued on.  I share your thoughts and your grief and hope that one day you will forgive the young man.  After all, he said he was " crying because he missed his friend", and did not meant to kill him."   Many times we do stupid things to regret. 

      You are very blessed, embrace it.

  5. Twyla Vargas says:

    YES EDUCATION IS VERY IMPORTANT at the prison, but what is the use of getting an education when you cannot get a job.  The important question to focus on is will these prisoners be assisted to get back into the work force.  The plain facts are that before a prisoner is to be let out of prison the prison authorities should spend at least one month trying to line up jobs for them in this New World of New Thinking.  They should even be allowed to go for interviews accompanied by prison officers to pave the way for them.   If this is not done, they will feel scared, nervous and dont know what to expect.  It is a time of hand holding.

    About two months ago I had a conversation with a Caymanian man who had recently gotten out of prison, after serving about nine or ten years for murder.  He was sitting on the beach crying.  When I asked him what was wrong, you know what he replied.  "Miss, you know I just got out of prison and I need something to do, but that is not really why I am crying. "I am crying for my friend that I killed."  "I did not mean to kill him, and I miss him"  I was familiar with the case, and my heart cried, because I knew both young men.  I saw him a week later and he told me that he was an electrician by profession but no one would give him a job because of his criminal record.  He said that he was considering commiting suicide.  I informed certain persons and I believe he has been assisted.

    My few words is just to say, "We do not know who is crying in the wilderness", and why"  Give these young men and women another chance in society, hold their hand and guide them.  You never know what may happen one day.  That seem person may one day have to offer a hand to your child or grand child.   Life is like that you know.  Walk good.

    • Anonymous says:

      There are quite a few of inmates who has committed murder many years and is now very reformed that should be elligble for out. However there are no provision being made for that. Even lesser crimes that has been committed and when these inmates comes out they are not accepted into society. There should be some sort of Half Way House provided for them until they can get their act together. I do not have any relatives or what have you in the Northward  Facility but Ihave a heart and a good understanding of what went wrong with most of our young men. Alot of them had unsupervised lives as  children, some single parents, some poverty, some was abused and last but not least alot of parents do not set good examples. It is surprising what alittle love can do for kids, I do know of a few kids in Cayman that was shown love and interest and what it did for them and their Community. I would love to mention their names but dont want to embarass no one. Instead of spending so much money on Security for our newly elected that large sum of money and it is my understanding approximately $300,000 for each Politician per annum, that would certainly do alot towards a half way house. Could someone enlighten me on the amount that is paid out per annum on their security.