by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Three inmates at His Majesty’s Prison, Louis Gardner, Keith Murray and Alpha Duporte, shared their thoughts and experience as prison inmates and also gave words of wisdom to the general public.
The inmates had an opportunity to be panellists on the Monday, June 05 edition of Island Tea to tell their stories.
Louis Gardner explained that bad company caused him to be in the position where he has found himself, explaining that one can face serious consequences simply because of association.
“Sometimes, to be honest, it’s because of negative company. Being around negative company could cause you to really encounter serious predicaments in life. Being around company and something happens, that doesn’t mean that you are guilty, but just because you associated yourself with a particular company, like, if your name is called, serious consequences can come your way. So, negative people play a major role,” Gardner stated
Gardener and three others were handed the full brunt of the law on July 15, 2008, for the murder of Gavin Gilbert on March 21, 2005. Gardner, who was placed on death row, gave wise counsel, pleading with individuals to stay on the positive path.
“I think introducing more programmes to the prison, allow more inmates to go out there and talk to the youths in schools and so forth, that can help a great deal. What I would say to the people out there is try to stay on the positive path. Be around people who are goal-oriented, people who want to be successful in life, positively, of course. Try as much as possible to avoid idle company. Try to learn as much in school. Try to learn a skill because the more you engage in positiveness, the more negative people will be scarce. They wouldn’t want to hang around you much because you act your part; you don’t have time to waste.”
From the perspective of Keith Murray, children having their fathers present in their lives is vitally important, a privilege he wasn’t fortunate to have.
“Well, for me personally, I do feel like the fathers out there need to be more a part of their children’s lives. I grew up without having a father, mother struggling, so it put me in a position where I had to go there in the streets to hustle and be out there, ain’t no telling the company you might come across, the kind of thoughts, because [it’s about] survival.”
“I’ve been incarcerated since 2017, sometime in November, charged for a capital offence. While being there, 2017, I lost my case. I lost the matter where; I received life imprisonment. At that time, It was like the future door closed on my face. I felt there was no hope. I have a son who was two years old at that time.”
On July 14, 2017, Murray was handed a life sentence along with two others for the murder of George Livingston Queeley. Queeley went missing in late January 2011, but his body was discovered on November 14, 2013.
Alpha Duporte, on the other hand, shared why he was put behind bars and explained his view of how difficult it is for ex-prisoners to reintegrate back into society.
“For mine, it was more of a self-defence matter… Sometimes, being reintegrated back into society, they find it hard to give you an opportunity or chance to really show what you’ve done and what you’ve become now.”
Duporte was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on July 15, 2013, for the murder of Dexter Marsham, which occurred on July 18, 2009, as well as ten years for attempted murder and five years for wounding with intent of two other individuals, respectively. Duporte was sentenced to a total of 35 years imprisonment.
Gardner, Murray and Duporte are three of four inmates who graduated from the Advanced Vocational Education Center (AVEC) in December 2022. The Rehabilitation Officer at His Majesty’s Prison, Virgil Hodge, said that was the first time inmates graduated from the institution in history.
Gardner is now a certified welder and mechanic. He said the course was very important for himself and the other inmates because it helped to put their minds in a positive place and reduce negative thoughts.
Murray said he had no clue about mechanics, but after serious self-reflection, he joined the course, thus becoming a certified mechanic. “I’m a doctor in mechanics. There is nothing in mechanics that I cannot do,” Murray delightfully stated.
“One day I did some serious, serious thinking, and my biggest fear was knowing that a chance will come for me to be a free man again and I have nothing to teach my son, don’t know what I can do to get my bread, I don’t know, and it [builds] a fear in me because I know if I don’t develop myself, it’s a high possibility of me coming back to prison.”
In the case of Duporte, he mentioned that he had experience in mechanics before his incarceration and was grateful for the opportunity to sit the course to become a certified mechanic.
Hodge, the Rehabilitation Officer, said generally, the inmates not only engage in education courses as a form of rehabilitation but are exposed to agriculture, construction, baking, mentoring, music, and they also have an opportunity to have spiritual upliftment.
“We have Pastor Connor from the Antioch Baptist Church, who plays a very big role in the Prison. He comes in every month with his team, and they have sessions, and so we also take Prisoners to church. As a matter of fact, I just took the females to church last month, for the first time ever in history, for International Women’s Day. Pastor Connor kept asking, “Can we bring the females?” [That’s] because the females are not allowed to go out based on the rule book, but we are trying to change that and also make some amendments in the rule book as well because the rule book was done years ago, of course, under the English laws, and so we have to change certain things about that; because the ladies always ask, “Ms Hodge, how come you can’t have the same privileges as the guys?” which is only fear. Even with the AVEC programme, we’re going to start that back up again in September, and we’re going to have the guys go up there and do other stuff, [like] A.C; they’re going to be adding a lot more stuff to the programme, and so we’re going to involve the females.”
The guest appearance of the three inmates came at a time when gun-related murders in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis are high compared to the last four years respectively; 12 murders in 2019, 10 in 2020, 13 in 2021 and 12 in 2022. Fifteen murders were committed between January 01 to June 06, 2023.