“When I lost my freedom, I lost everything,” said prison inmate George Roper in a documentary, which was viewed by almost 200 students during Youth Crime Prevention Day at the Family Life Centre last week.
Year eight students got a glimpse of life behind bars as prison guards and police officers escorted them from room to room in a “lock down” simulation.
“Today the theme is loss of freedom, we are mocking a situation that when you go to prison, you lose your freedom … We encourage them to change the way they process information, and to make positive decisions,” said Bonnie Anglin, event organizer and chairperson of Youth ACT, the organization behind the initiative.
John Gray High School students listened to the dangers of gangs, drugs and alcohol, and firearms, during a series of 30-minute workshops.
Students heard firsthand accounts from two recovered alcoholics and drug addicts, during a talk about the life of crime and drugs.
“Drugs and alcohol in our society is used as a means to deal with things. I’m telling you today, in your daily situations and in your life and your needs, drugs and alcohol is never the solution,” said Mitch Exctain, pastor and recovering addict. “It will never help you. The reason it makes you feel good at first, is so it can take you to the place you don’t want to go.”
“Is it really that bad?,” one student asked.
“For me it is, I can only speak from personal experience, drinking takes me to the place where I would probably end up in jail. So I don’t do it,” replied recovering addict Brent Hydes, who works with the Hope for Today Foundation, a housing facility for newly recovered addicts and alcoholics.
About half way through the talk, students watched a video about young people who landed in jail as a result of drug and alcohol abuse.
The message at the end of the session was one of hope.
“You need to protect your life, because you are valuable, every one of you here today, you are special, you are priceless, and you are precious. You need to understand that and defend your life and stay away from such things and such people that will destroy your life,” said Pastor Exctain.
Patrick Beersingh, detective chief inspector of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, gave a talk on the dangers of gangs.
“You have to try to get two or three concepts in their heads. I think this talk was successful because I got two things done. One, I gave them a good understanding of what a gang is, and secondly, the message of the consequences of being in a gang, and it being negative,” said Mr. Beersingh.
He said the aim of his talk was to change their perceptions of gangs being cool or gangsters having money.
Other talks were given by police officers, prison officers, counsellors, social workers, and teachers.
“This experience has been very involving, and shows me and some of my fellow students that prison is not for us. We’ve heard around, but to have this experience here, it is better, and more involved. I know [drugs and alcohol] are bad to start, and that it can have a bad effect on you mentally and physically,” said year 8 student Mark Plowright.