Ex-convicts show off their wares at expo

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 04, 2019

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AT the end of a prison term, many ex-convicts find it difficult to obtain a job in order to sustain themselves. However, a number of them have been carving out their own niche since serving their time.

Last Thursday, the hall of St Paul's United Church on Lockett Avenue in Kingston was transformed into a one-stop shop, with a variety of items on display that have been made by men who are on parole for various crimes.

Handmade shoes, sandals, swimsuits, wooden jewellery boxes, picture frames, clothing, vases, beverages, and ground provisions were sold at affordable prices.

Portraits were also on display.

Most of the vendors who spoke with the Jamaica Observer last week Thursday made it clear that their skills were enhanced while they were incarcerated.

According to vase-maker and T-shirt graphic artist Orant Clarke, he learnt the trade while serving his six-year sentence for manslaughter.

“I picked up some of the knowledge in prison. When I came out I saw some of them on YouTube and so I just find my own design and pattern,” Clarke told the Observer.

Clarke, who was released from prison in 2016, said his business is growing.

After eight years behind bars the lone female among the vendors, Tricia Campbell, left Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre with more skills than what she was incarcerated with.

“I learnt from other inmates how to make swimwear,” Campbell said, as she sat at a table decorated with crocheted swimsuits and runners.

The seemingly shy mother of one, who told the Observer that she was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder but is now on parole, said she also learnt how to cut hair and embroider.

The 44-year-old woman said she also operates a bar in her community.

For 25-year-old Michael Fearon, making shoes was always his passion.

Fearon said in 2015 he was given a non-custodial sentence for illegal possession of firearm.

Even though he was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment, Fearon said he spent two years in jail leading up to his trial.

“Most people are looking for the genuine stuff, things that will last a while. When you can come by me and say you want genuine shoes, I will surely build a leather shoes for you…Not a piece of cloth or riff-raff — genuine leather, genuine sole,” he said.

Undaunted by the wide variety of shoes available on the market, Fearon said his clientele is growing.

The exposition was hosted by the Probation Aftercare Service in region one, which comprises the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine and St Thomas.

Community Service Order and Parole Programme Coordinator Charmaine Holness said the expo was geared towards exhibiting the skill sets of the parolees.

“It is about hoping to gain, perhaps to gain from the skills they have, and all of that because it is not easy to be employed when you have a record. So it is learning to do things for themselves,” Holness said.


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