Ex-Prisoner Speaks: Bermuda Vs Overseas

April 7, 2010

Following Government’s revelation that they are considering sending prisoners overseas, we spoke with a gentleman that has experience in both. He has been incarcerated in Bermuda, as well as in North America, Jamaica as well as another Caribbean island. He was involved in drug trafficking, and spent time incarcerated for a variety of drug offenses between 1995 and 2005.

Since 2005, he has straightened out his life, removed himself from the drug culture, and maintains a full time job. We have removed identifying locations and information to protect his privacy.

He spent approximately one year in a minimum security North American prison, in a location not known to be especially harsh. On this experience, and the feasibility of sending prisoners there he says:

The prison I was in overseas they gave you cash money which makes it easier to obtain drugs, I got $35 a month. The only problem guys would have overseas in a prison like what I was in is they wouldn’t have visits. Also, they have more schooling in prisons overseas so in actual fact it would be like sending them to a college. It wouldn’t be actual punishment to send guys there.

This gentleman was held in a Jamaican prison for a few weeks, he was not convicted of a crime, and was being held on remand. Of Jamaican prisons he says:

Jamaican prisons were dirty and overcrowded. The toilet was a hole in the ground with a support to sit on. They didn’t give you any toilet paper so you had to make do. It was nasty.

All meals was like a wrap, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was in a cell with about 15 guys and we all slept on the floor. The floor was concrete and we got no blankets, there was some benches but the most powerful prisoners got the benches, which meant all the Yardies, foreigners like me were all on the floor. There was no TV, no radio or anything.

They don’t take your property from you down Jamaica, you go in jail with whatever you got, if you got a cell phone you can take it in. You wear the same clothes what you went in, they don’t get washed, so say you stay for a month you wear the same dirty clothes.

We inquired about gang violence overseas in general and he told us:

In the North American remand jail I was in, there is alot of violence, as you have same gangs in the same cellblock, but after like a month they get used to each other. Once you go in prison, it’s not really too much gangs, as people must coexist, there are cliques, but gangs get kinda stamped out some. The gangs were divided by white guys and black guys.

Only place I saw really saw alot of gangs was one prison I was in the the Caribbean. I had a bit of a problem as they thought I was American, and they don’t like Americans in this prison, but once they saw I wasn’t American I was cool.

On the subject of prison rape he told us:

I never known of a rape in prison, there isn’t many rapes in prison, that’s just in the movies.

We inquired about levels of violence and amount of prison deaths, and this was his take:

In one Caribbean prison I was in seemed like someone died almost everyday, was violence everyday. They died however they could be killed, they got stabbed or killed with bare hands.

I wasn’t too scared as I kept to myself, long as you keep to yourself you’re cool, plus I was used to prison by then. If you go round acting like something you’re not, acting hard then you get problems. It’s the same as the streets, you get in the gangs you might get hurt but if you stick to yourself you’re probably going to be cool.

In the North American prison I was in a couple of guys died of drug overdoses, as its so easy to get drugs as they gave us money, while I was there no one got killed though.

His take on whether we should transfer prisoners overseas?

Transferring the gun guys and rapists to a prison in Jamaica seems a good idea. Not everybody, but guys with guns, murderers, rapists and pedophiles…definitely send the pedophiles. I hate those guys.

Only send them to Jamaica though, it’s the only real tough prison.

Interestingly enough, he says the prison he found the hardest – was Bermuda. He explained that as he was home, yet locked in, he found it the worst and described it as “torture”. He said whereas overseas the experience is more surreal, being locked up in Bermuda “hit him” more, since he could see and “feel” home – but was locked up.

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  1. Comparison of Bermuda Prisons vs Jamaica Prison Conditions | Bernews.com | November 21, 2010
  1. Margaret Hern says:

    Wouldn’t it be better to educate these guys in prison? Otherwise, what are they going to do when they get out – the same thing that they did before to survive. If you have someone’s attention for 5 or 10 years in prison, surely you can turn them around with education, physical exercise, and mentoring. The cycle of poverty and poor education, that leads to a life of crime, needs to be broken. If you just treat them roughly, then they will come out still lacking the skills to be part of a civil society – and likely have adopted even worse behavior. Don’t look to the US system to solve our prison or educational problems – they are even worse at it than us. My suggestion is longer prison terms with mandatory education, exercise and mentoring. If you don’t want to participate, than no parole. It won’t fix everyone, but surely it will be better than it is.

  2. bernews says:

    Hi Ms Hern, thanks for stopping by.

    The man we interviewed doesn’t get on the internet really, but I read this to him and asked what he thinks. He agreed totally, saying he thinks it’s a good idea, better then “sticking guys in there and making them feel like they are forgotten”