Scores of inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison at Northward participated in literacy celebrations recently at the facility.
Prison Director Dwight Scott told visitors, among whom included Governor Duncan Taylor and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, “The prison service sees the importance of literacy and volunteers come twice per week to have classes with inmates.”
As part of the programme that’s known as LIFE, or literacy is for everyone, the prison system has a committee assess inmates, as well as to consult with individuals who may need help to try and erase any shame they may feel about not having learned to read.
“We need statistics for who cannot read or write, so we are able to approach the problem. We know that literacy is a bridge from misery,” said Mr. Scott. “It is a tool to realise your potential and develop that thirst for knowledge,” he continued.
Governor Duncan Taylor also gave a few brief remarks about the joys of reading before sharing some passages from a book titled Netherland in which the author compares playing the game of cricket in the city of New York to how the game is played on pitches made specifically for it in other parts of the world.
“Reading allows us the freedom to escape into other worlds. Every person should have the right and opportunity. The Parole Board considers progress in literacy and numeracy in it’s decisions and it is something that I look at when considering someone for early release,” said Governor Taylor.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson also gave a few brief remarks about the importance of literacy and read from a chapter from Patronage, Personalities and Parties a book written by Caymanian author, former MLA and now president of the University College of the Cayman Islands Roy Bodden.
Other highlights of the day included a presentation of certificates to prisoners who passed the latest batch of GED tests, City and Guilds examinations and computer studies, in addition to the prison’s second annual literacy competition. Travis Ebanks was the repeat winner in this regard, with his song Take Heed. Second and third places were taken by O’Neil Robinson and Phillip Rose.
Congratulating the winners, Mr. Scott encouraged them to “practice what you sing”.
Acting Education Coordinator Natalie Joseph-Caesar said that not all the men in Northward participate in the literacy programme. For that reason, the month’s literacy events were designed to expose and encourage others to take advantage of the opportunities.
Booths set up in the prison chapel featured the services of those in the support network – Cayman Against Substance Abuse, the Department of Employment Relations, the Department of Community Rehabilitation and the National Drug Council.
Amongst those offering words of encouragement, Deputy Chief Officer Katherine Dinspel in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs said that, beyond the practical benefits, literacy allows opportunities to deal with hidden or trapped emotions, and can also break the cycle of offending and incarceration.
A former counsellor herself, she added, “The trauma experienced by those from dysfunctional homes affects one’s self-esteem, but this can be healed by reading, writing and expressing yourselves.”
Several private sector companies – from book stores to salons and hotels – contributed prizes to the literacy awareness initiative.