The rehabilitation of male and female inmates at the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) is expected to improve significantly as social partners team up to provide essential equipment and services.
Last Friday (October 8), a team of officials from the St. Lucia Boxing Association (SLBA), Blackheart Productions and Rise (St. Lucia) Inc. visited the prison to deliver sporting equipment, books, hand sanitizer and other basic needs.
Last Friday’s visit came two weeks after the team paid a courtesy call to the prison to meet officials to get a sense of what items and services are needed to provide sustained rehabilitative programmes for the inmate population.
The sporting equipment will be used for the introduction of programmes in the following disciplines: boxing, football, cricket, basketball, netball and volleyball. However, other programmes are in the pipeline, including sewing, music, arts, cosmetology, drama, and public speaking.
Also accompanying the team last Friday were Jahim Etienne, co-host of MBC’s “Zafe Nous En Ste. Lucie”; National Boxing Head Coach, Conrad Fredericks; cricket star Kimani Melius and his coach Alton Crafton; and SLBA Public Relations Officer, Stan Bishop.
While at the facility, the visiting party engaged prison officials and inmates on how the sporting programmes will be run and how other services will be introduced to assist in inmate rehabilitation. The programmes are designed to reduce stress among inmates and also prepare them for their re-introduction to society after they would have completed their sentences.
SLBA President, David “Shakes” Christopher, said he was pleased that the collaboration has already begun producing tangible results.
“We’ve been trying to do this for years, but the collaboration with Rise (St. Lucia) makes it much easier,” Christopher said. “We’re also happy to see how the folks at BCF have really accepted us as we try to make a difference there. We hope that this will succeed in a big way.”
He added: “We’ll be working closely with Rise to make this happen. The BCF officials have given us a list of things they need and we’ll try our best to deliver. Right now, we just want to get the programmes started so we can keep the momentum going.”
Christopher thanked the other agencies who have since supported the initiative, including St. Lucia Distillers Ltd., Saint Lucia Netball Association, Saint Lucia Volleyball Association, Saint Lucia Basketball Association and Saint Lucia Red Cross. He also expressed gratitude to the management and staff at the prison and thanked the selected inmates who attended Friday’s handover ceremony.
Chairman of Rise (St. Lucia) Inc., Venus “Rastaman” Cherry, said that as society continues to evolve, everyone has an important part to play in the fight against crime and violence. He noted that it’s not just about educating people in the open society but also those incarcerated.
“Rehabilitation is key, it’s a must,” Cherry stated. “We have to work together as a community, as a society, as a people, to ensure that our brothers and sisters coming out of prison are better citizens.”
Cherry said the justice system needs an overhaul, especially where young people are imprisoned on remand coupled with long periods of adjournment. He also believes the bail system is unfair and only helps the rich. Nevertheless, he said the work continues.
“We’re very happy to work on this rehabilitative project,” Cherry said. “What better way to get people motivated and disciplined than through sports? I do hope that corporate Saint Lucia and the Government of Saint Lucia see how important this is and come on board.”
Jonathan “Ninja Dan” St. Rose, Co-founder and Director of Rise (St. Lucia) Inc., expressed his elation on being involved in this initiative. As a rehabilitated inmate, he thinks it’s vital and paramount that the initiatives are introduced into the BCF, especially during a recent upsurge in violence among inmates.
“For me, boxing is a force of rehabilitation because it allows them to be fit and healthy and motivated,” St. Rose explained. “Boxing can also bring about a sense of healing during the COVID-19 era, especially when there are as much as six to ten inmates in a cell. Therefore, inmates can boost their immune systems through exercise. We need more corporate entities involved in this process.”
Meanwhile, Alberta Joseph-Felicien, Assistant Director in charge of Rehabilitation, said the management and staff at BCF are grateful to partner with corporate Saint Lucia on the rehabilitative initiatives now in the pipeline. The donations, she said, will be used to rehabilitate inmates in new sporting disciplines not available before and enhance the existing ones.
“We were unable to hold sporting activities with the inmates because of the pandemic,” she said. “As you know, towards the beginning of the year, about 85% of our inmates were affected by Covid-19, so everything was on hold. We started opening up a bit and then there was a fourth wave. I am hoping that things improve in the country so we can move forward with these activities.”
She continued: “The items will encourage inmates to behave themselves. When they are busy training getting ready for tournaments/competitions, there are a lot less fights and bad behaviour. We have inter-unit competitions in which they want to participate — both as competitors and spectators. They know that inmates who are not disciplined are not allowed outdoors to participate.”
Joseph-Felicien said other items are also needed for the programmes, including television sets, sewing machines, art equipment, educational games, especially for young offenders.
“We have constraints for space and we are unable to run our educational classes simultaneously with religious classes and psycho-social classes because of space constraints,” se said. “We are in need of a building to hold these very important activities. That would improve our rehabilitation programmes significantly.”
The Bordelais Correctional Facility is the only prison in Saint Lucia and is located in Dennery on Saint Lucia’s east coast. Built in 2003, it has a capacity of 500 inmates. In September this year, the inmate count at the facility was 486, including 15 females.