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Studious Inmates Recognised

Director Dwight Scott (R) commends inmate Allan Ebanks - pictured with his mother Elvira Zayas.

Studious inmates were recognised for their efforts during Her Majesty's Cayman Islands Prison Service's (HMCIPS) Prisoner Learning and Development Unit's (PLDU) third annual awards ceremony.

The event, recently held in the Northward Prison Chapel, was attended by Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks, MBE; Chief Policy Analyst Dr. Philip Pedley, and Assistant Deputy Chief Secretary Eric Bush.

Prison officials included Director Dwight Scott; Commissioner of Corrections and Rehabilitation Dr. William Rattray, and Deputy Directors Claire Range and Daniel Greaves.

Motivational speaker Jacqueline Morris presented the keynote address to an audience that included PLDU staff members, as well as several parents, relatives and volunteer educators.

The Deputy Governor described the ceremony as a "significant occasion." He also referred to the inmates' talents and their obligations to society.

"I am grateful to see the progress that some have made," Mr. Ebanks said. "As adults you are responsible for yourselves, and no one owes you a ticket through life. Think of the impact your situations have on your families on the outside - do you think your children are proud that you are in here?"

Comparing his own life experiences to theirs, he further advised the inmates to avoid taking shortcuts and instead to bring positive focus to personal plans: "Appreciate what you need to do, and be willing to commit to help yourselves," he said.

Guest speaker Mrs. Morris also encouraged inmates to maintain hope in the face of uncertainly and difficulty. "Education is only successful if it results in the self-discovery that can change and empower you," she said. "The greatest service you can do is to fulfil your own potential."

She further urged them to be responsible, to be the best they can be, and to find their unique places in the world.

Currently more than 120 inmates - including young prisoners and females - participate in the education programme. Awardees represented 15 percent of the total prison population. The range of awards reflected the depth of the learning programme, which has been revitalised in recent years.

Inmates received City and Guilds certification in office skills, bookkeeping and numeracy. Certificates were also presented for computer technology and sound recording courses. Some inmates were rewarded for achievements in general educational development, art, poetry, woodwork and physical development.

Mr. Scott presented the Director's Award to Hasani Levy, and commended those involved in the PLDU - notably Manager Peter Foster and Education Coordinator Natalie Joseph.

The Director also congratulated those inmates who had taken advantage of the learning opportunities. Other inmate students received certificates as Most Outstanding (John Bernard), Most Improved (Allan Ebanks) and for Best Attendance (Terrance Bryan).

In turn, Dr. Rattray spoke of the importance of education and of vocational training, as critical components of sentence-planning. He also noted the harsh realities of prison life, saying, "Contrary to popular belief, this is far from a hotel."

He said the purpose of prison education should be defined not just in terms of contributing to reducing recidivism, although that is a fundamental goal, but also because it is "the right thing to do."

As drug abuse prevention is a key component of rehabilitation, Cayman Against Substance Abuse (CASA) certificates were also awarded to inmates from all three facilities for their completion of the basic drug education course.

Volunteer Chaplain Kathy Gomez led the prison's band and choir, Voices of Hope, who entertained guests. Other inmates also performed song and poetry, and presented tokens of appreciation to the officials.

For further information contact: Lennon Christian