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Reading this made me cry

I sat in my office with a couple of friends talking about life and what it really means to us, and for a moment i wondered where my life was going. I did not question if what i was doing was the right thing because i made a decision a long time ago to do something with my life that would result in me sharing the blessings that i was given. as we sat here and talked i logged on to the jamaica Observer web site and typed my name in the search area only to see a series of articles which feature the work i’m currently invloved with in the prison. one of them struck me so much so that reading it brought tears to my eyes, and so i thought i would share. if there was even the slightest thought in my mind about giving up, this article erased that thought completely. the power of love, what an amazing thing. Charley i thank you for this medium, what a wonderful way to express one’s self. here is a copy of the letter

Dear Editor,

I’m glad that the Observer has finally recognised the need to highlight the positive men and women of our society. Too often our cover stories glorify those who are heartless criminals among us. My story is about a man who has been working single-handedly to change the situation of our penile institutions. Today, as crime spirals out of control, everyone feels that it is their duty to prescribe remedies. Some argue that the police need more ammunition and improved tactics; the youths need employment; government needs to sever ties with gunmen; and the private sector needs to report extortionists. However, no one is speaking about the situation of our prisons. None of us seem to recognise that at least 80 per cent of those in prison will be released and on the streets again. We fail to understand that many of the hardened criminals that now ply our streets were made that way by their prison experience. So while we make recommendations, the problems will continue to persist if we do not take a stand.

Thankfully, one man has. Kevin Wallen – an entrepreneur – has done, and continues to do, tremendous work within the prisons. With his small but effective group called Students Expressing Truth (SET), he has implemented a rehabilitation process that introduces its members to a wide variety of courses, especially in the area of Information Technology.
This group can be credited for Spelling Bee, quiz and debating competitions, which are all being marvellously executed in the prisons. In addition, the group has done a wonderful Information Technology Expo, which truly attests to the power of reform.

Interestingly, these stories barely make the paper, but the frivolous demands of prisoners command the front page.

Kevin has invested millions of his personal funds, persisted despite criticism (from colleagues of the same private sector that is now clamouring for change) and has spent thousands of hours of his personal time in motivating and speaking with these offenders. He has even done the “unthinkable” and has employed those who are released in his business. It is heart-warming to watch him make himself selflessly available to these men who demand his attention, especially after being released. He often digs deep into his pockets without any complaint, providing ex-criminals with the funds necessary to make a start, and makes the trip to pick them up when released, and drives them home in dignity. It is no wonder that none of his members are recidivists. In fact, this proves that rehabilitation works. If we do nothing to help those in prison acquire a skill or make improvements in their personal lives, what is the use of building more prisons? It will be a waste of the country’s resources if plans are not made to rehabilitate prisoners, as they are to improve police tactics and ammunition. Both go hand in hand.

Kevin is really an excellent example of what it means to take action when we are unhappy with the situation around us. It is not enough to simply sit (stand) in the uptown park of New Kingston, demanding change. Kevin has the foresight and the good sense that many of us lack. He has set an example and I salute him as a powerful Jamaican whose work will not go unnoticed.

Lecia Gordon

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