TWO Jamaican women who were caught attempting to smuggle marijuana to Barbados are warning prospective drug mules that despite the pull of potential profits, it is not worth the risk.
The women, one of whom was raped while in detention, have served their sentences and have been deported to their homeland. They told the Jamaica Observer that their decision to 'swallow the bait' and agree to smuggle drugs has made their lives hell, and they are still struggling to come to grips with the effects of being incarcerated for months.
One of the women was caught with four pounds of the contraband weed, while the other woman was held with two pounds. They were sentenced to 20 months and nine months respectively in the HMP Dodds prison in the Eastern Caribbean island.
"Do not take the chance, when you're caught, you are on your own. Life in prison is hell and the money you are offered to transport drugs cannot make you rich. Someone would have to do many trips to get any real money. Don't go there," one of the women urged.
The two met while they were serving their sentences and became friends after sharing their experiences with each other.
They both admitted that they were foolish and had taken the chance to smuggle the drugs because things were bad with them economically.
"I was facing tough times. I did it because of my children. One day I went to work and my friend told me that her boyfriend could arrange a thing for me. I did not really make up my mind but he offered me US$3,000 to take the ganja to Barbados. I was too foolish to see what I was heading into," the woman who served 20 months said.
She said the man bought her a plane ticket and gave her a small suitcase to be used as a carry-on bag with the contraband sewn into a false compartment. She was also supplied with a telephone contact in Barbados who would take the drugs from her when she cleared customs and immigration at the Grantley Adams Airport.
But the woman never got the chance to meet her contact as she was given a rude awakening when a female customs officer noticed something wrong with the weight of the bag and, although not noticing anything unusual on an X-ray screen, decided to dig deeper.
The woman's world came crashing down when the official used a pair of scissors to cut through the cloth lining of the secret compartment and discovered the banned substance.
She was promptly taken to a room, strip-searched, humiliated, locked up and raped.
"If I had known what was in store for me I would have stayed home and bear the struggle," she said.
Her friend shared a similar experience and warned unsuspecting persons that life in prison degrades one to sub-human status.
"Just think about rice soaked in water, peas with insects cooked in it, and food that we would not even give our dogs. That is what they feed you in that prison. Be careful of the choices you make in life," the other woman chimed in.
The women also told of varying degrees of abuse suffered at the hands of Barbadian prison officials who seemed to bear a special hatred for Jamaicans who they said described them as 'cocky', 'bitches' and out to steal Barbadian men.
"Once the woman who was the chief warden prison pepper-sprayed an entire cell block because the prisoners refused to go inside their cells after the power went. The gates are electronic and we were afraid that we would be locked in for too long. After that the guards beat and dragged some of us by our hair before flinging us back into the cells," the woman said.
After she had come to grips with the reality that she would be locked away for almost two years, the rape victim began to meet other women who had been caught trying to enter the country with drugs and found out that they had been recruited by the same individual who recruited her.
"I found out that they send three or four persons and at least one or two always get caught. I was the unlucky one to get caught," she said.
But life in any prison is hard, and for the rape victim, the ordeal her loved ones were going through back home in Jamaica also weighed heavily on her mind.
The man who enticed her to traffic the ganja, started threatening her relatives with violence after claiming she had made it undetected through Barbadian customs and ran off with his money.
"He threatened to kidnap my children and wanted to harm my relatives. He never cared about what happened to my children even when he found out that I was in prison. These people don't care about you when you get caught. Even when I served my sentence and came home no help was given to me. I was on my own," she said.
Now, both women have served their sentence and are busy picking up the pieces of their lives. They are under no illusion that they made a very bad choice and have paid their dues to society, but they want send a clear message to other young people.
"Don't traffic drugs!"