Bernard Headley | Déjà Vu: That UK Prison Offer



Opposition Senator Lambert Brown succeeded last Friday in putting the Government on the defensive. He questioned sharply fellow senator and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamina Johnson Smith on what other, compromise plan(s) the Government had in place now that it has said no to the UK offer of £25 million to build for Jamaica a new maximum-security prison, which would house a substantial number of Jamaicans condemned for incarceration in the UK.

It so happens that, two or so weeks after the new Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government was installed, I wrote and sent an unsolicited, regular-citizen ‘memorandum’ to Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of National Security Robert Montague, suggesting alternative ways of utilizing the UK funds. Here is a lightly edited version of the memorandum. My sense, and my hope, is that it’s not too late for the administration to incorporate, at least in principle, items I proposed back then.

1. The two maximum-security prisons Jamaica has are inhumane, national embarrassments, which we should hastily put under wrecking balls. One of these prisons is on Tower Street, in Kingston; the other is in Spanish Town, St Catherine. But will hoped-for relief from our terrible crime situation come from building a larger and more expensive version of these two monstrosities? The weight of the criminological evidence suggests not!

2. That which we expect from prisons ought logically to determine the kind of prison we build, or use UK funds to help build. Reflexive talk of building a new facility for mass incarceration would be going in the wrong direction, regardless of how ‘modern’ the facility would be. We’d be going in reverse to worldwide progressive trend of ‘de-prisoning’. Besides, mass prisons are known breeding grounds for reproducing more crime, especially organized gang crimes. Just wait, Professor and Gleaner columnist Carolyn Cooper has whimsically, but correctly, warned, ’till deported yardies from Britain meet up’ in our new mass prison with the ‘yardies from yard’, should the prison be built.

3. Receiving for additional imprisonment in Jamaica Jamaicans who offended in the UK or in any other foreign countries simply not on. Rather, we should continue to receive these offenders (on condition that they are indeed bona fide Jamaican citizens) as convicted deported migrants (‘deportees’) who, with stepped-up support from major deporting countries, and intensive treatment and prudent monitoring, can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society.

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How to start…

How to start…Well let see if I can start from the beginning. My mom once told me that I was conceived after she was taunting my dad that he was afraid of woman. See they were going steady for quite sometime, but had never been intimate. My dad was sixteen and my mom was fifteen at the time. My mom was attending sex education classes every Wednesday, so believe that she was more in the know than my dad.

So my dad said to her “Oh, so true mi na pressure u fe sex, u think me soft. Well aw’rite. Watch me an’ u.”

And the first time they were intimate I was conceived. Nine months later, on March 17th 1977 I entered this world destine to be somebody great. I was raised not in luxury, but privilege and exposed to a lot more than the boys and girls in my age group. My dad made certain of that. And although I was not that only child…I fact, my dad get 12 of us. (Three my mother, and the others by five other woman) I never felt the feeling of neglect or short change. My dad did whatever he had to make sure that we had more that enough…from pushing hand cart stacked with back to school paraphernalia during the back to school rush to selling cooked food at South Parade to selling pants lengths on West Queens to selling clothing in Pernell Charles Arcade to selling in to selling Fish at Fish Ground. In 1987 he migrated to US, just barely slipping through the crack to avoid the hand of the law. The fallowing fund a recording label managed by my mom. The label gave life to Ghost, Grinds Man, Trappa John, Ricky Melody, Penny Irie, just to name a few

With my parents living in two separate countries drove a wedge between them. This wedge put a strain on my mom and thus, the recording label begin to suffer…miss management. I was attending North Street Primary at the time. By the time I was 12 and was Attending Penwood Secondary. Note! I was very much illiterate at the time. I can clearly remember being 12 years old and did not know how to spell mother and father… in fact it wasn’t until way after my incarceration that I learned how to spell Wednesday. By the time I was 13the relationship between my mother and father was non existing. My mom had even moved out of the house she and my dad shared. Thus I was thrust into becoming the man of the house. I had to wash, cook and clean for my two younger brothers. I had to press our uniform for school and so forth. I remember even my beloved uncle Alexander ‘Trappa John’ McIntyre, who was working at Scotia Bank at the time. Used to have me down by the bank after school selling gratto bread in the lobby to have my own money.

In July of 1991, I went to live with my dad in New York. I month later one of my other bro join me. My dad got us into school over there. I was now attending Park West High School in downtown Manhattan. As always, my dad tried his best to ensure our needs are met. However, a year and so into my residency my dad got sentence to 1 1/4 to 4 1/2 years in prison for selling crack cocain to an undercover cop. That was Feb of 1993, and on March 19 of the same year, I got kicked out of the house because my step mom caught me having sex (the girl I got caught having sex with later became my baby mother ) two day prior while she was dropping off a cake for my birthday.  My aunt, one of my dad’s sister used to come and get my brother and I and take us to her house in New Yersey for the weekend. There she would taken our clothes to the laundry mat, then take us grocery shopping for the week and give us pocket money to tie us over until the following weekend. But all that imminently ceased once I was kicked out of the house. Once again I found myself fending for my brother, just like I was in Jamaica. And bouncing from one friends house to another, until I ended up living in a an apartment my father brother gave me. My father’s brother actually took over a brownstone building and have the super of the building selling drugs for him. My father’s brother had married to the whale of a woman and she had three nephew who was extorting him.

One of the wife’s nephew had gotten arrested for shooting his own uncle in his eye. My father’s brother had put up thirty five thousand dollar U.S. to bail him out of Rikas Island. He happen that the nephew didn’t want him to get back his money. I forced the issued and the father gave back fifteen thousand and my father brother bought a black Lincoln Continental and this got the nephew so bitter. He beat up my father’s brother and back gun on me twice  in an attempt to shoot me in on more than two occasion. Once he even kicked me down a whole flight of steps. I’m still suffering from back pain since.

I told my father’s brother that he need to do something about this guy and

To do it fast or else it might just well kill one of us. So my uncle gave me a sawed off shot gun to go and handle business. I saw the nephew and open fire on him maliciously. Unknown to me my father’s brother’s wife saw me lurking about the block and call the cop, so as soon as I committed the act, there was the police. I took off in the Lincoln. A chase ensure from a 119th St to 147th and Park Avenue where I collided into a brick wall. I working up a week later in hospital cuffed to the bed, and metal Running through my leg with weights fixed to it to keep my fimma bone which was broken in two place separated. There was two detective poise at my bedside ready to interrogate.

I pleaded guilty and was sentence to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. I did fifteen years and was deported in January 2008. I barely passed my G.E.D. in Feb 1998. I acquired a slew of certificate. I met Oswald 2003, ten years into my sentence and became a part of the C.A.U., and subsequently got introduced to you via over seas letter. On couple occasion, I personally respond to your letters on the bequest of Oswald. Being a part of the C.A.U. change my thought process. I learned to not only think of myself, but think for others as well…and this gives me a sense of purpose.

I wasn’t hard for me to adjust because of my dad meanly and other family support married with my drive to go out there and implement what I’ve learned over the years from Oswald and Dwight and Glen and other stalwart like them. I didn’t have NODM when I got deported. I acquired all my documents on my own. However, I do believe it’s a plus having us around.


 Also, I I used to own and operate a bar and internet cafe. However because of the influx of smart phone and tablets the internet cafe crumbled. I am now a sound owner and party promoter. I’m now building my own house.