KINGSTON — Mixed emotions filled the atmosphere, as inmates at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Facility, in Kingston, were allowed to interact with their children as part of a Christmas project.
Tears of joys and smiles, punctuated by hugs and kisses between parents and children, illustrated untold stories of broken family bonds reunited, if only for minutes.
Overcome with joy, in the cool shade of a towering almond tree, Roy* takes a few strides towards his obviously happy son, on the grounds of the farming land across from the facility. As a huge smile flashes across his face, his emotion-filled reunion mirrors the reaction of other fathers, some of whom are getting to see their children and grandchildren for the first time since incarceration.
Throughout the almost 20-minute session, words of encouragement and upliftment were exchanged between Roy and his 16-year-old son, Brock*.
In an interview with JIS News Roy, who has been imprisoned since 1998, says every visit is crucial in maintaining close family ties and relationship. He encourages his son to study hard and stay focused to attain his goals and aspiration, reminding him, constantly, that “crime and violence” do not pay.
He says he uses his current situation to implore his son not to follow in his footsteps. Brock, who aspires to become a medical doctor, says even though the visit was short, it was instrumental, adding that Christmas is a time for family.
“I am a bit depressed that I wasn’t able to spend more time with him, but (the visit) overall was (a) good one,” he tells JIS News, while urging individuals to desist from crime.
Scores of other children from across the island were also able to visit their fathers at the correctional facility on Thursday (December 15). The reunification was made possible courtesy of the office of the Custos of Kingston, in collaboration with the Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica (Kingston chapter).
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Custos of Kingston, Hon. Steadman Fuller, said the event was a “wonderful way” to ensure families remain strong, even while one member is incarcerated.
Commissioner of the Correctional Services, Colonel Sean Prendergast, said the event was specially planned so that all parties could benefit from the exchange. He thanked the relevant parties for ensuring that it was held.
Colonel Prendergast noted that inmates look forward to these events each year, adding that support from families and corporate society is for a worthwhile cause.
“We have to recognise that all the inmates that we have in the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre will someday rejoin society, and it is important for us to make sure that we maintain these family bonds and ties,” he said.
Throughout the day, children were provided with materials to make Christmas cards for loved ones. The adults were able to access health related services such as free HIV, blood sugar and pressure tests, while the children were treated to rides on slides, swings and bounce-a-bouts. Entertainment was provided by Eagles Marching Band.
Booths were mounted by the Lions Club of St. Andrew, St. John Ambulance, the National STI/HIV programme and the Kingston Bookshop.
The event was sponsored by NCB Foundation, Island Grill, Kingston Bookshop, and the Lay Magistrates of Jamaica (Kingston Chapter).
*Names have been changed to protect identity.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter