Bring the gift of yourself
January 7, 2019
Final day of CCR conference
January 7, 2019

New prison NGO to give back to society

Fr Robert Christo greets Commissioner of Prisons Gerard Wilson (background), while CCSJ chair Leela Ramdeen greets TTFS Divisional Officer Clunis Wallen.

On Saturday December 29, Catholic Commission for Social Justice’s (CCSJ) Chair, Leela Ramdeen, was one of the feature speakers at the launch of a new group: The Joint Force Anti-Crime Initiatives of Change—Trinidad and Tobago.

The CEO and co-founder is Zola Simmons who is an Auxiliary Fire Officer in TTFS. Police Inspector, Ryan Duncan a co-founder, also addressed those gathered. The event was held at the quarters of Gerard Wilson, Commissioner of Prisons, at Golden Grove Prison, Arouca. In his address, Wilson, who fully supports this initiative, focused on his efforts to “re-engineer” the Prison Service.

Ramdeen invited all to lend support to the group so that they can share their God-given talents with society and lead productive lives. She reminded those gathered of the saying in Proverbs (29:18): “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

She said that the vision to build a better T&T must be inclusive and highlighted the petition launched by Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris, seek-ing to “free” re-mand pris-on-ers who have been be-hind bars longer than the max-i-mum prison term they would have served if they had been found guilty of their crimes.

Ramdeen stated that after visiting prisons before Christmas, Archbishop Jason Gordon has placed this issue high on his agenda and is currently pursuing it, along with other issues relating to those incarcerated.

A special guest speaker was Topeka K Sam, President of the Ladies of Hope ministries, USA, whose mission is “to help disenfranchised and marginalised women and girls transition back into society through spiritual empowerment, education, entrepreneurship and advocacy”. Sam is intending to begin Ministry by opening a house in Sangre Grande for women who were previously in prison.

Like Sam, Simmons and some of the members are former inmates who have served time for various offences. The group is applying for NGO status. Its motto is: ‘Ready and willing— committed to the cause’.

The ‘cause’ is to give back to society; to make a difference; and to impact youth and women, in particular, in positive ways e.g. through drama, spiritual programmes, spoken word, song and dance.

Fr Robert Christo represented Archbishop Gordon at the event. Master of Ceremonies was radio host, social worker, and former Prison Officer, Alloy Youk See who continues to support the CCSJ in its work.

Clunis Wallen, Divisional Officer, Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service (TTFS), who addressed the gathering is also fully supportive of the initiative by Simmons and her team.

The entertainment included parang, spoken word, dance and drama provided mainly by male and female inmates. There were also two moving testimonials by two female inmates, one of whom emphasised the need for good parenting to support the development of children/youth. – LR