Stigma still attached — woman says drug conviction has come back to haunt herMonday, September 13, 2021
BY CANDICE HAUGHTON
“CLEAN up your police record and reapply.”
Those were the last words 36-year old Sheril Bailey wanted to hear after she finally landed a job, following three years of searching, as part of a plan to put her drug trafficking conviction behind her.
Bailey, who was released from prison in 2017, told the Jamaica Observer that she got a job at a call centre but she was ultimately dismissed when her employers learned of her police record.
This, according to the mother of three, caused her to believe she was still being punished for what she described as a mistake she made when she was “young and stupid”.
“When the company checked my police record, they called me on the phone while I was in office. I'm thinking, I did that years ago and me try mek me self a better person. Mi even pass some subjects in prison.
“She [human resource manager] said she understand, but she's going to send me home for a time so they can do some further investigation,” Bailey explained, adding that she was home on paid leave for over a month before she was told that her contract was terminated and she should clean up her police record.
She went on to say that she was advised by her lawyer that her dismissal was illegal, and a letter was sent to her employers requesting compensation, but it has been months now and she has not received a reply from them.
Attempts by the Observer to contact the company proved to be unsuccessful.
Bailey said she did not declare her conviction at the time of her job application, thinking foolishly that there was no need to. But she had agreed that the company should do a check of her police record because she was not hiding anything.
“Persons that come from prison, if you pay the penalty you not supposed to be punished for the rest of your life, and that's what we are doing now. Not just me, there's a lot of us that's going through the same thing that I am going through right now,” she complained.
“Out here, there is a stigma. Once they get the understanding that you have been incarcerated before, that's it for you — even if you are doing well in your job. They just feel like you are an outcast,” she continued.
Following her futile job search Bailey said she began putting most of her focus on building a jewellery-making business.
“I'm trying to do something on my own and push myself further with where my business is concerned. The funds nuh really strong to push it like how I would like, but me a tek me little time. I learned how to make jewellery in prison, and since I was released I've been making and selling them,” said Bailey, adding that she also makes and sells bags and slippers.
She is thankful for her family as they are very supportive, and she considers herself lucky to be living in close proximity to her mother and sister on Maxfield Avenue, Kingston, at this difficult time of her life.
“I have three wonderful kids. My daughter, she's going to Mico to continue her studies — she's doing well. And my son, he's doing well. He's working on a construction site. I mean, they have their own personal things to do but they help out when they can. I have a two-year old — he's extraordinary — and my niece is there with me. I wouldn't be brave enough to continue pushing forward without them,” Bailey stated.