Charlestown –Nevis- As part of the activities slated for youth month-April 2016, Minister of Social Development in the Nevis Island Administration, Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, paid an official visit to her Majesty’s Prison in Basseterre, popularly referred to as ‘1840,’ on Thursday 21st April.
The minister was accompanied by an impressive delegation which included Miss D. Michelle Liburd, Asst. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development and Miss Zahnela Claxton, Coordinator of the Youth Department on Nevis.
The delegation met for almost two hours with a contingent of the inmates or residents as they are referred to by Supt. Hodge.
In her brief remarks, Miss D. Michelle Liburd read a motivating poem and impressed on those present to recognize that being imprisoned, is not the end of the world, as persons can move on from their mistakes to make something worthwhile of themselves.
Miss Zahnela Claxton in her remarks, urged the residents to use the opportunity to ask as many questions as possible and to make relevant comments, pertinent to the discussions.
The delegation was introduced by Officer Liburd who thanked Minister Brandy-Williams for including the facility for such a significant visit.
Minister Brandy-Williams from the outset, indicated that the trip was conceptualized ton coincide with youth month, as it was recognized that there were quite a number of young people in prison and wanted to make the point that they not forgotten.
She spoke to ‘second chances’ and entrepreneurship and the learning of new skills during their time of incarceration which could be put to meaningful use on their release.
She was careful to point out that she would not make any concrete promises that cannot be fulfilled but guaranteed that she would do the necessary follow up work on the concerns raised.
The delegation then entertained questions/concerns from the residents who thanked them for coming but raised such issues as a chance to employment when they are released without the usual negative stigmas attached.
A chilling note of warning was sent by one individual who stated that when they are rejected by society upon release and refused employment, they would just have ‘to do what they have to do and everybody will get hurt.’
They also raised issues pertaining to the cultivating of crops and not receiving assistance in getting them sold.
Minister Brandy-Williams also indicated that once they are released and they have a positive plan of action for their lives, she would see how far they can be assisted by her Ministry. She pointed to a perfect example of someone making a right about change in his life in the person of Ramie Gumbs, who now works within her Ministry and is making positive strides.
Some of the residents then recited poems and made passionate pleas to other young people not to follow in their footsteps and to keep out of ‘1840’.
The Minster later had an official meeting with Supt. Hodge. During this meeting it was revealed that the correction facility was originally constructed to house 60 inmates but now has 187: Males-182 and females 5.
Later at the insistence of the Prison Band, the delegation was well and truly entertained in the band house and took time out to show off some of her dance moves.
She also took time out to be part of an interview conducted by the ZIZ television crew, before heading back to Nevis.