Leather goods made by inmates at Northward Prison and other local handmade products are going on sale at a new George Town store.
The shop, called “Hand Made With Love,” will sell leather products made as part of the Northward Prison Tannery and Leather Crafts Rehabilitation Program. It opened its doors in Crown Square on Eastern Avenue on Monday.
The store is also selling handmade quilts, spreads, stuffed toys and pillow cases made by the people of the Cayman Islands – the oldest being 94-year-old Laurel Watler.
Also on sale are some Cayman favorites, including Linda’s Pepper Jelly, Carol’s Guava Jams, and candles and soaps from Beach Bubbles made from fresh buds, seeds and flora.
In addition, there are basket works, leather goods and tie-dyed items from the Macusis and Wapisiana village tribes of Guyana.
Store owner Supriya Bodden, who initiated the leather-working program at the prison, said, “Across Cayman, there are people who are presently unemployed, people who are searching for some sort of way to empower themselves to make a living. We want to try to involve as many people as possible and let them understand that if they want to develop their skills and bring the crafts that they do here, we will do everything in our power to try to make the store a success and spread the word.”
A new tannery being built at Northward Prison will see inmates, as early as next year, working with skins from invasive green iguanas to make items such as belts, bags and wallets that will be sold at the store.
Ms. Bodden said Hand Made With Love has a long history.
Ms. Bodden, who lives in Cayman but runs a charitable trust called The Guyana Foundation in her homeland, said her charity aims to teach skills to citizens who can then turn their knowledge into a thriving career, and if it has been able to work in Guyana, there is no reason why it cannot work here in Cayman.
After getting the go-ahead from government and prison officials, she enlisted craftsman Colin Bollers from Guyana to teach the prison inmates the finer points of tanning and leather working in the hopes of giving them marketable skills upon their release.
“The timing of this store venture is great,” said Kathryn Dinspel-Powell, deputy chief officer in the Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs, as she admired the handiworks at the store with other guests Monday.
She said one of the goals at the prison is to offer rehabilitation opportunities to offenders.
“Two of the main ingredients that help someone getting caught in that cycle of re-offending is having stable housing and employment,” she said.
She explained that assessments of inmates showed that many do not have employable skills or confidence in their abilities – elements that rehabilitation staff try to work on with the prisoners while they are in the prison system.
She said the prison service was trying to find other opportunities within the prison to give people skills they could use when they are released, that will enable them to sustain themselves in the community and work independently.
“There is a huge pool of talent within the inmate population of Cayman and the idea that we might be able to give them a new venue and a new outlet for that creativity is so exciting that when Supriya reached out and said come along to this presentation, the prison director and I were excited to do so,” Ms. Dinspel-Powell said.
Aduke Joseph-Caesar, prisons deputy director of rehabilitation, thanked Ms. Bodden for the opportunity to allow prisoners to showcase their potential.
She said inmates will receive 60 percent of the money made from sales of the items they make. The other 40 percent will go back to the prison to cover the cost of materials. The store will display and sell the items for free.
Sixty inmates are involved with the leather goods program.