Barbados is an “unforgiving” society that refuses to give former prisoners a chance at reintegration or to live a normal life, one reformed manslayer has charged.
Jerry Weekes, who spent 14 years in prison for manslaughter, opened up to Barbados TODAY about life behind bars and the hurdles he faced after his release.
While he dealt extensively with the “degrading” situation at the prison, it was clear that Weekes, affectionately known as Jerry Dan, was troubled by the public’s attitude towards ex-convicts.
“Everybody make mistakes; and how can a man be able to prove himself if he is not given a chance?” Weekes told Barbados TODAY in reference to the public debate over the recent release of murder convicts Peter Bradshaw and Denis “Sheriff” Maynard.
“Barbados got a lot of people that unforgiving.”
The once popular deejay, whose promising music career was cut short in 2001 after he was convicted of killing Brian Whittaker, appealed to Barbadians to give former prisoners who have served out their time a second chance.
“If the system, the people that are trained to detect behaviour patterns are saying that the man is fit to re-enter society after being in prison for so long and it’s not like the man has a long criminal record. [This is] the man’s first time with the law, de man in jail for 20 somebody years . . . and they see it fit to give the man a chance again and everybody just ‘yah, yah, yah’, but a lot of people does talk when the shoe not on dem foot, yuh know.
“I agree everybody is different [and] is entitled to different feelings and opinions but there got tings in life that you just got to step aside and let the Most High handle it,” he added.
“Who is we to judge at that magnitude when all of we is sinners?”
Weekes made it clear that it did not take him 14 years to reflect and see the error of his ways, and stressed that reintegration had come with its share of challenges.
He suggested that more attention ought to be paid, not only to what happens to prisoners after they leave HMP Dodds, but the treatment they receive while still behind bars.
“Prison is a degrading place . . . prison is a place that if you as an individual cannot or do not hold some kind of esteem for yourself you will crumble under the pressure.
“That is a place where you suppose to rehab, where you suppose to get help, but you got people in that place that put you down and beat you down, come in everyday and call you names and tell you things. I am not saying that everyone does do that, but there is a percentage of them that do dem kinda things.”
The former disc jockey admitted that recidivism was high, but he blamed it on the failure of the authorities and society as a whole to help in the reform process.
“Jail needs some sort of serious reform programme going on; people that really care about helping these men to return back to society, productive men and I say that boldly and clear.
“I have done a lot of time in prison; there are a lot of things that goes on in prison that is not right. Up there needs a serious looking into. That prison up there, listen everybody know what gine on but nobody just ain’t looking into it,” he declared.
Despite the many challenges he faced while trying to fit in again, Weekes said the fact that his “wifey” and some of his friends stuck by him through the hard times made it less hurtful and problematic.
And now, having done his time for the crime he committed, Weekes said he was focused on rebuilding his music career.
“I think there had some people that weren’t sure if I still had the ability to do what I use to do best but as time went by people build back their confidence in me and put back Jerry Dan out there and had that faith in me that I can do it again.
“I cannot complain and I must say thanks for the acceptance and thank God first,” he concluded.