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Trapped in prison system

DEBBIE JACOB Friday, April 21 2017

WHEN I saw G towering above most of the people at a prison religious service, I felt like my heart had broken in two .

G, I thought, could not still be trapped in the prison system. G smiled faintly as he walked towards me .

After those mundane pleasantries that we all exchange initially in a conversation, I asked, “Do you have a court day yet?” It was a fair and unfair question: fair because he should have had a court date by now, and unfair because G has been in the prison’s remand system for over ten years now .

“I went to court the other day,” he said, “and I have a date to go back the end of June.” June, I thought, is a long way off for someone who has waited for a court date for ten years .

I first met G in YTC. I had asked for him to be put in my English class after I heard a speech that he had made on Emancipation Day. “Why haven’t I ever seen this young man?” I asked .

G had nearly made himself invisible in YTC. When I first met G, he was tall and lanky; quiet and shy. He would wait silently on the sidelines at YTC events when family had been invited. Moving nervously from one foot to the next, his gaze remained glued to the entrance where family would have to pass in order to get to the football field. Completely oblivious to the happy reunions between lads and their parents, he’d bite his lip and hope silently, nervously to see his family .

“If no one comes,” I would always say, “I will be your family.” G would nod and smile without shifting his gaze .

For a time, it seemed G had been lost in the system. Once, I had someone check to see where G’s file had landed. The DPP’s office, I was told. “He’ll have a court date in a year.” I received that information about three years ago .

In the meantime, I tried to get G to settle down into English classes. He had a difficult time focusing, but he tried his best .

Once, he wrote about how he ended up in YTC. At 14, he had gone to live in a house with other boys because he didn’t get along with his stepfather. A man in his 20s controlled the boys — usual story. By 16, G was in big trouble, and he had been charged with a capital offence. G’s story is a complicated one, as most stories are. It is a sad one too — as most stories of young men in prison .

Over the years, I could never help but feel that society had failed G .

Watching him at that religious gathering about two months ago, I thought how this teenager had grown up in the prison system .

He still seems like a teenager. He’s a young man who appears to be battered by society .

I wonder what will happen to G now. How will he find the world that he will return to? How will he fit in? Where will he go? These are questions I couldn’t bring myself to ask. A lot has changed in ten years, I think. I don’t know how well equipped G will be to face those changes. He has a few computer classes; some YTEP classes. Is that enough? I hope G will find his way in a society that failed him miserably .

I hope this with all my heart because I for one love him, and I long to see what he will make of his

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