Tears, smiles as Tower Street inmates get chance to bond with family


Monday, December 19, 2011

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THERE were mixed emotions at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Facility in Kingston last Thursday as inmates were allowed to interact with their children as part of a Christmas project.

Tears of joys and smiles punctuated by hugs and kisses between parents and children, illustrated untold stories of broken family bonds reunited, if only for minutes.

Overcome with joy, in the cool shade of a towering almond tree, Roy (not his real name) walked towards his obviously happy son on the grounds of the farming land across from the facility. He wore a broad smile which mirrored the reaction of other fathers there, some of whom were getting to see their children and grandchildren for the first time since incarceration.

Throughout the almost 20-minute session, words of encouragement and affection were exchanged between Roy and his 16-year-old son, Brock (name changed to protect identity).

In an interview with JIS News, Roy — who has been imprisoned since 1998 — said every visit is crucial in maintaining close family ties and relationship. He encouraged his son to study hard and stay focused to attain his goals and aspiration, reminding him, constantly, that "crime and violence" do not pay.

Brock, who aspires to become a medical doctor, said even though the visit was short, it was instrumental, adding that Christmas is a time for family.

"I am a bit depressed that I wasn't able to spend more time with him, but (the visit) overall was (a) good one," he told JIS News, at the same time urging individuals to desist from crime.

Thursday's reunification was made possible courtesy of the Office of the Custos of Kingston, in collaboration with the Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica (Kingston Chapter).

Speaking at the event, Custos of Kingston Steadman Fuller said the event was a "wonderful way" to ensure families remain strong, even while one member is incarcerated.

Meantime, Commissioner of the Correctional Services Colonel Sean Prendergast said the event was specially planned so that all parties could benefit from the exchange. He thanked the relevant parties for ensuring that it was held.

Colonel Prendergast noted that inmates looked forward to such events each year, adding that support from families and corporate society was worthwhile.

"We have to recognise that all the inmates that we have in the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre will some day rejoin society, and it is important for us to make sure that we maintain these family bonds and ties," he said.

Throughout the day, children were provided with materials to make Christmas cards for loved ones. There were also rides and slides, swings and bounce-a-bouts and entertainment by the Eagles Marching Band.

The adults, meanwhile, were able to access free health services such as HIV, blood sugar and pressure tests.

Booths were also set up by the Lions Club of St Andrew, St John Ambulance, the National STI/HIV programme and the Kingston Bookshop.

The event was sponsored by NCB Foundation, Island Grill, Kingston Bookshop, and the Lay Magistrates of Jamaica (Kingston Chapter).




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