Fun and games in the sun –
Day at the sea for 40 convicts
Forty men serving life sentences at the Maximum Security Prison, Arouca, got their first glimpse in 25 or more years of the world outside when they were taken on an outing to Carrera Island beach last Thursday.
The excursion was part of the prison’s rehabilitation programme and included men who have been in jail for periods ranging from 25 to 30 years.
At Carrera Beach they were allowed to swim, play football, cricket and basketball and to enjoy a home-cooked lunch of rice, stewed pigeon peas, baked chicken, salad and dessert.
The bus travelled along the Priority Bus Route to Port-of- Spain and then to Carenage where a boat transported the inmates across the sea to "down the islands."
Many of the sites along the way from Arouca were totally unfamiliar to the men. They could barely recognize the way Tunapuna had changed in the years since their incarceration.
Their excitement grew when they reached Port-of-Spain and saw the Financial Twin Towers for the first time. They stared in awe at the changing landscape of the city.
When the bus arrived in Carenage, some of the men started to cry on seeing the sea for the first time in many years.
Junior Minister in the Ministry of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds, who spent the day with the men yesterday, related the experience to 66 newly promoted officers.
"It was the first time that the prisoners were allowed out of the prison on an outing to play games and have a sea bath," Hinds said, adding that it was part of the rehabilitation process now taking place behind prison walls.
Security measures were put in place, he said, describing how amazing it was to see the men’s reaction.
"For getting the bus ride, they were really happy and even more elated for getting a sea bath.
One prisoner said it was the first time in 27 years that he had been able to have a sea bath," Hinds said.
Hinds added, "Young people who make statements that they are not afraid of jail should take note and realise the importance of freedom. It was a touching experience."
At Carrera Beach the prisoners enjoyed themselves under the watchful eyes of heavily-armed prison and coast guard officers. Some of them cried, others were simply happy for the one day of freedom while others used the opportunity to openly repent for the crimes they had committed.
The group included a man who has already served 30 years of his sentence and is believed to be the oldest serving prisoner.
Prisons Commissioner John Rougier was thanked by the prisoners for the opportunity given to them and they asked him to give them permission to urge young people away from a life of crime.
Hinds told Newsday that he hopes to document the life story of the prisoners by means of video or live interviews so that young people could understand what it is like to lose one’s freedom.
According to Hinds, changes are taking place at the prisons, which would no longer be a place where people are simply kept behind bars as punishment for their crimes, but also a place where one could acquire skills, education, training and other positive things.
On Thursday, the football match comprised a team of prisoners at Carrera playing against the visitors from Arouca.
Both teams were allowed to wear special uniforms and the match was refereed by trained prisoners.
The Carrera team won.
The visiting prisoners left Carrera at 3.30 pm to return to the Maximum Security in Arouca, their one day of happy freedom remains with them as the heavy gates closedbehind them.
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