I bowed my head as I felt the tears begin to burn my eyes when the Magistrate sentenced me to serve 18 months’ in prison for felonious wounding. I had stabbed someone in a rage but now the remorse slapped my heart as I made my way down the court steps to the holding cell.
My family stood in the court yard crying unable to do a thing. I didn’t know what to do as I couldn’t look my mother in the face.
It was almost a decade ago. I was only 29 at that time. By three o’clock that afternoon the prison truck came for me to cart me off to the Lusignan Prison.
From then onwards I felt like I was in a new world, a horror world more so to say. Walking in a trance, I made my way into the prison compound with others, where we were given our necessities for our new life.
By evening I was escorted to a cell where three other men were my new roommates. I lay on my new bed which was a fibre mattress placed flat on the ground. With a prayer to God to help me get through the months ahead. I found that I couldn’t close my eyes for a night’s rest.
I supposed it was about 06:00hrs the next day when I heard the sirens indicating that it was a new day in prison.
As the cell doors opened we made our way down to the bathroom. After taking a bath I heard shouts from the prison officers ordering us to make our way for breakfast.
There wasn’t a cafeteria to eat in so I found myself huddled in a corner as far away from everyone. A friendly fellow made his way over to me and identified himself as a man called ‘Brother’.
‘Brother’ showed me the ropes for the next couple of days until I was thrown to work on a farm. I was in charge of the poultry section. I was made to fetch loads and loads of feed for the chickens and ducks in my care.
The smell of their excretion filled my nostrils and I almost vomited. I was well soaked with perspiration by lunch time. My back ached and my hands and legs were sore.
After lunch I attempted to take a rest but I was hauled back to the chickens and ducks. I cleaned their pens and I was ordered to keep it as clean as possible. I got a few pecks from the chickens that day when I tried to take their eggs.
When I was taken back to my cell that evening I still couldn’t sleep although my body was screaming in pain.
I soon learnt that having simple things like a sweet smelling soap was a luxury. Going out of the prisons to work on farms or construction sites was the closet one will get to a field trip.
Only well trusted persons who the prison officers believe will not attempt to escape or return with prohibited items were given such opportunities. I was fortunate to be offered such a position where I was sent to a bakery along with others to clean and bake bread.
My little earnings I was able to save up and spend at the ‘Thug Shop’ to buy my soap, Colgate, biscuits, etc. Visits from my family were rare because of finances but I longed to be home.
When the days began to roll by and soon after the months, I began to adjust to my new world. I was made to be a part of church services and educational sessions. Once I did not feel like attending the educational sessions and I was punished by spending one night in solitary.
It was dark and cold down there and even though I was never a regular to misbehave, I never wanted to go back down there.
Squeals from rats could be heard nearby. Mosquitoes had a feast on my body. Cockroaches were flying from wall to wall and at times landing on me. By morning I felt like a corpse.
After serving a couple of months in prison I was moved from my cell to an open dorm which housed about 50 to 60 persons. A lot of things flashed before my eyes and I had to turn a blind eye for my own safety.
It was not easy living a life where you had to constantly look over your shoulder. You can watch a man and believe that you can beat him up because he looks soft but, there is a whole gang behind that one person who would kill you if possible.
I once witnessed a man beat another with a sock full of bricks; where he got the bricks from I don’t know. There was blood everywhere after the victim received a burst head and his face was well battered.
The culprit was stopped by the prison officers and I later learnt he was given additional time in prison for the offence. Fortunately, the victim survived.
Finally, the day came for me to leave this strange world that had me feeling like ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ Because of my good behaviour in prison some time was taken off of my sentence.
I was almost sad to leave because I was leaving new friends behind. I had gained the respect of many; it was like I became a father figure to them at such a young age.
“Don’t let me see you back in here you know boy. When I come out I will look for you right. I like how you just served your time nice and clean you didn’t get mixed up in stupidness.” Those were the encouragements I received from my friend ‘Brother’.
The reformation programmes offered were indeed helpful to me. I would like to say that many leave the prisons with their minds genuinely made up to change but because of being constantly rejected persons find themselves back in cells.
Lucky for me I had my family to go home to. They assisted me in the journey back into society. As I sat in a bus with my little earnings from prison and some spare change from prison officers, I still felt like I was in a trance but I closed my eyes and prayed to God for getting me through the months.
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