The Rotaract Club of South East Nassau Centennial on Saturday renovated the library of the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDCS).
“Today we are taking part in our ‘Break the Stigma; Break the Chain’ project, where it is our intention to focus on just the rehabilitation of prisoners,” said Candice Hepburn, president, outside the library.
“We’re hoping to remove a little bit of the stigma that is attached to prisoners and just assist them in their education and feeling as though they can have a better outlook on life when they do come out.
“So, we’re revamping the library where we’re hoping to paint the entire room, we’re donating books as well and the second fold of that project is that we are donating care packages and [those] care packages include new tennis shoes, new panties and underwear, sanitary pads; we brought deodorants, soaps as well, T-shirts and just a lot of things for the inmates to let them know that while they’re in here they’re not forgotten and we do believe that they can do so much better.”
A handful of inmates assigned to assist with the renovations expressed their enthusiasm over the upgrades.
Evans Jean-Gille, 42, a high school dropout serving a three-year sentence for grievous bodily harm, said the library has been pivotal in his rehabilitation efforts and he is happy to see it being upgraded.
“The library needed to be upgraded to come back [to life],” Jean-Gille said.
“I am happy today that we’re working at it and we’re putting things in order.”
Jean-Gille said that he is an avid reader of history and theology, his favorite book being “The World Book Encyclopedia”.
He added that his time behind bars has helped him to find his way.
“Coming here wasn’t a waste of time,” Jean-Gille said.
“I got to know myself better. I got better teaching and I’m on the right track.
“This really [brought] me back to my senses.
“It helped me to know the reason I’m here, it helped me to know my purpose in life and it helped me to have better character.
“…It helped me to build up a dream because when I was out there before I came here, I wasn’t thinking.
“The kind of mindset I have today, I thank God for coming here.”
Trevor Bowleg, 39, a high school dropout serving a six-year sentence for armed robbery, said the library upgrade was long overdue.
Asked how often he visits the library, he said, “Off and on because I work over here, I’m always in and out looking for different books and stuff to read.”
Bowleg said he has taken advantage of three classes offered at the prison.
He added that he is a fan of science fiction novels, namely the Star Wars trilogy.
Gerald Forrester, 36, who said he graduated from paramedic school just months prior to being handed a three-year sentence for firearm possession, told The Nassau Guardian he’s happy to see the library being renovated; however, he said the correctional facility needs a lot of work.
“Me coming here just opened my eyes,” Forrester said.
“The Bahamas just needs a lot more work, especially this correctional facility, but I think it’s going to work out…”
Forrester cited The Bible as one of the many books he reads, amongst a variety of novels.
He encouraged young people to stay away from gang-related activity.
Director of Education for staff and inmates Andrea Sweeting said the aim of the prison is to educate everyone, staff and inmates included, in order to lower recidivism.
“We’re trying to make sure that hey, you have an opportunity,” Sweeting said.
“Even if you say ‘I didn’t have that opportunity before I [got] here’, we give you that opportunity so that when you leave from here [you’ve had] that opportunity and you can’t say ‘Oh, society has turned their back on me’.
“…We try to reach you at your need to make sure nobody is left behind.”
Education: Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) 3rd Year