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Witnessing a prison break and just didn't know it

By HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 04, 2014    

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It all appeared like a dream — one that hardly anybody wanted to come true.

Indeed, it was hard to imagine that two eyes from afar, bolstered by reasonably thick lenses, could behold what was unfolding at 10:18 last Sunday morning.

An e-mail had landed on my old cellular phone the very moment that I saw two prisoners putting energy into getting onto the highway of freedom.

Two prisoners escaping! No, not possible. Escaping from Horizon! Absolutely no way, I told myself.

Heading east along Spanish Town Road toward the Matthews Lane area where vegetable vendors would trade my fistful of $50 bills for fresh products, instinctively, I had to look across at the maximum security facility, something that normally happens when I am in the area.

Lo and behold, two men appeared to be lowering themselves, with the aid of what looked like a piece of cloth being used as a rope, from what seemed like a small window at the extreme left of the second major building from Three Miles end.

A wha dat? I asked myself at the sight of the two men, both airborne and one clutching onto the other's waist.

All sorts of thoughts entered my mind.

Could this be a prison break in progress? Naa. Not possible.

Even poetic verses entered my mind: They are birds, they are bees, they are escapees ...

But, again, that's not possible ... not a Horizon. Where would they go? Even if they make it down from that window, when they get to the ground, they would have to climb an everlastingly high wall with razor-like barbed wire perched atop it — something not as inviting as icing on a wedding cake — and beyond that existed another chain-link fence with barbed wire at the top for dessert.

So an escape bid was definitely out of the question. Instead, I thought, it must have been an in-house exercise organised by the Department of Correctional Services, which has (and not the police) direct management responsibility for the property and its human and other contents.

Pulling over to the side of the road that was bereft of pedestrians, adjusting my glasses and taking another look at the men sliding down, still did not raise my antenna about them seeking freedom.

Is it possible that they had been on the ground and were going back up?

No, but of course, it must be a little gig organised from within by the authorities, for there was no way that two men could be climbing out of a window (or vent) and not be spotted by those "on the ground", I thought.

Maybe I should stop down the road and see if my friend and former schoolmate, Senior Superintendent Steve McGregor was at his office at the Kingston West police headquarters in nearby Denham Town.

But no! Why bother Steve? Again, it's not a prison break, right? Yes, it's just a little thing put on by the correctional department's staff to keep the inmates physically active. Maybe they were even attempting to clean the cobwebs that had gathered on the outside - and that could amount to the hard labour, which normally accompanies some of the sentences.

The men from afar did not look like convicted murderers Joel Andem or the recently inducted Vybz Kartel, so there was no real reason to fuss.

Less than eight hours later, reality hit home. Radio Jamaica carried the item in its 6:00 pm newscast that two men had escaped from the 'maximum' facility Horizon Adult Remand Centre.

I almost fainted. I had seen a segment of a prison break for the first time, but disbelief that anyone could have been so daring, made me hesitate about raising an alarm.

While driving, I had to pull the vehicle aside and reflect on what I had seen hours before. My head and neck got more exercise than they had ever gone through.

No man! That could not have happened.

My first chance to use a computer ended in me rushing to check news releases put out by the constabulary force's freshly named Corporate Communications Unit.

Then, the CCU reported that murder convict Omar Creary, 22, and teenaged murder accused Casheen Peart, 18, of a St Thomas address, had temporarily postponed the State-imposed curtailment of their freedom.

Creary, the police said in the statement, is from the volatile August Town community in Eastern St Andrew, of brown complexion, has scars on his upper and lower arms, and is around six feet in height.

I don't know about the scars, but he was the taller of the two and he was above the other, shorter fellow, Peart, whom the police said is from Church Lane (also known as Church Corner), Morant Bay, St Thomas.

"A out da way ya him come from fi true," said one resident of Albion when I went there the following day.

"The bway jus reach 18 and him dey pon murder charge. Him better go gi up himself before police find him," he said.

What is still puzzling is not how the men could have escaped from the vent. But it was how they managed to get over that high perimeter wall and the treacherous barbed wire that still boggles the mind.

I have driven past Horizon every day since the incident, reflecting on the real situation of Sunday, April 27.

If Creary and Peart were to avoid a fatal 'shoot-out' with the police and be recaptured, I would love to be able to speak with them, if only to find out how they managed to clear all the obstacles and entered the gateway to freedom.

Their answer would no doubt go a far way in relieving a level of anxiety that has stuck in my throat for long enough.

Were these men not bruised all over, having gone through that challenging obstacle of the barbed wire fence?

Oh, well one is from St Thomas, a parish in which I was left in awe many years ago when I attended a wake.

Upon the introduction of a Kumina group, a woman got into the 'spirit', and among other things climbed a lime tree (obviously with instructions from the 'spirit') with prickles sticking out like pins ready for war. Amazingly, as the 'spirit' slowly released her and she descended the tree and landed safely on the ground, she did not even have a scratch. That, to me, remains one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen - still more dramatic than a prison break.

Oh, maybe there are tunnels at Horizon. If 'Dudus' were around, he would have been a good man to ask.

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