Archive for February, 2008

Convicted without a Trial!

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Yesterday the biggest news to rock our small island was the slap of criminal charges on one of our youngest and most promising politicians – former Energy State Minister – and current Member of Parliament, Kern Spencer. Kern at age 33 was slapped with 7 charges: 

  • Three counts of conspiracy to defraud:
  • Breach of Section 14 (1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which addresses the role of government officials.
  • Money laundering offences: concealing and disguising criminal property (US$37, 836.65); transferring criminal property from Jamaica (US64, 576.50); engaging in a transaction with criminal property.

According to the Jamaica Gleaner reports, charged along with Spencer are Rodney Chin and Coleen Wright. Chin, a close associate of Spencer is facing two counts of conspiracy to defraud and two counts of breaches of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Wright, Spencer’s personal assistant, is also faced with 7 charges; two counts of conspiracy to defraud, one for breaching the Prevention of Corruption Act, and four money-laundering offences.

The charges slapped on the former State Minister, are as a result of the gross mismanagement that was discovered after a project involving the distribution of 4 million Free Cuban light bulbs resulted in $276 million in expenditure. The alert was made by the new energy minister Clive Mullings.

Now, what are the implications for these charges? And why am I so interested in this situation? Well, firstly, if convicted Kern could face up to 5 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. This is interesting because it’s very rare that a Jamaican politician is held accountable for any of his atrocities. And it is arguable that had the PNP remained in power (they lost the general election after 18 years in power in September 2007); this gross mismanagement and now criminal involvement would never have come to light. So we are now forced to wonder, how many of these acts of blatant theft and gross mismanagement of funds have gone undiscovered? The truth is that we may never know!

This is interesting news to the Inmate Diaries blog because there is the general perception in Jamaica that the only persons in prison are those born and bred in poverty, lacking in education, social graces and whatever other tools necessary to put them on the plane to meaningful and purposeful activities. This is not so! Jamaican prisons, like any other prisons, have inmates from all differing backgrounds – individuals born in affluence and those in poverty. Therefore, this dispels the myth that only poor people commit crimes.

This is the issues that S.E.T Inmate Diaries would like to address. In telling the inmate’s stories, we hope to get a better understanding of what are the motivating factors behind crime. What is it that compels two completely different individuals from two starkly different backgrounds to commit an identical crime? (more…)

Tower Street Visit February 20!

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

 Being largely administrative, I haven’t been in at the correctional facilities for awhile. Kevin on the other hand has been a trooper visiting almost everyday and making reports. So it was time for me to go along and get feedback straight from the inmates.

Here is a report of what transpired on my visit to Jamaica’s maximun security facility!

Visiting Tower Street

 On Wednesday, I accompanied the Kevin to General Penitentiary. My visit has been long overdue since I haven’t been in the institutions for sometime. However, Kevin, Wayne and I were off to spend a couple of hours with the S.E.T group at Tower Street Correctional facility.

 We were ushered into the institutions – no delays this trip – and as anticipated I had to deal with the heckling and whistles from inmates. Thankfully, this no longer bothers me and we progressed directly to the S.E.T lab.  

At first, it seemed as we were going to meet with only a few men as the prison was abuzz with preparations for a concert to be had the following day. However, soon after we were informed that the concert had been postponed to March 6, 2008 and so we would be able to have a full gathering. This was good news because we had a lot to share with the group.  

Sports day coming!  

As soon as the meeting was convened the group eagerly told us about an upcoming football competition and domino tournament which they had been directed to oversee. The S.E.T group is widely respected within the institution and so when the institution’s superintendent thought of organizing a sports competition, he naturally called on S.E.T to organize and oversee the event. This was a welcome challenge by the group which already has in place a Director of Sports who quickly worked along with his committee to ensure that all goes well. It is enough to say that the event for March 1, 2008 has all fixtures in place and is ready to go!

 Training and bonding  

Having shared the good news it was time for S.E.T matters. Kevin expressed his desire to see the team undertake more activities as a group. He felt that was the process required to make the bonds stronger. He also expressed the desire for more training programmes to be in place. The core team of 18 pointed out that many of them had completed basic training in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and Typing tutor however; they would begin a second phase of training that would allow others to catch up and then progress to a more challenging level. This process would be coordinated by the Education Director. The inmates expressed the following challenges: 

  • Computers need to be upgraded
  • Some of the computers were missing the required programmes
  • Need for a sound card

 The S.E.T group would also begin to make arrangements for the rising star and quiz competition projects.   (more…)

Slower Start than Expected…But Press Release is Ready to GO!

Monday, February 18th, 2008

I have been a bit disappointed because our project has been experiencing a slower start than anticipated. However, we are over that process and now we are ready to go!!! I am more than excited again. Starting tomorrow these press releases will be sent to all media houses locally and I will begin to organise interviews with all media houses. In addition, I have noted much interest in a weekly feature of our stories so we are now looking at our options.

So in my enthusiasm, let me share with you the first press release on SET Diaries to the world! (more…)

Excited Beginnings

Friday, February 1st, 2008

The SET Diaries project is definitely here at a great time. Each time we meet there are new ideas coming from the group. So here is something we didn’t think of. For those persons who have told their stories on paper and may not want to do a audio or video interview, we have decided to do dramatic readings of their stories which the inmates themselves will edit using the skills they have learnt. This mean that we have even more options as it relates to shopping our content…certainly radio is now a major player.

I am just about ready to start issuing our press releases and negotiating with media houses. I hope I have exciting results to share soon.

In the mean time I have some meaningful stories from the group yet to be posted but certainly engaging.