Despite an initiative to have inmates perform during Jamaica 55 celebrations, indications are that incarcerated deejay Vybz Kartel won’t be among those displaying their talents.
Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, says at the moment the convicted dancehall entertainer is unlikely to be among those allowed to grace the stage.
When asked how would they select the inmates, Charles Jr responded, “If you’re asking me if Vybz Kartel is going to perform, the answer is no at the moment.”
He noted that the process of selecting the prospective inmates is currently under way.
“The talents are known. They expose themselves. They are involved in other projects and programmes and everybody is pretty much aware of the persons that are artistes or persons who are involved in any kind of music, art, furniture making or anything of that sort,” Charles said.
“It is not like we looking at a bunch of strangers, We know where they are coming from, we know what they are doing, we know what they are engaged in,” he added.
He says it is part of the tactics being employed to rehabilitate the criminal offenders.
“It is really a showcase of our artwork and musical talents in the ‘Jamaica 55’ celebrations. It is a thrust towards us trying to find different ways to reduce reoffending,” Charles said.
Anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle believes the initiative should be part of a serious and sustained effort to rehabilitate prisoners rather than something just for publicity.
“If is just a checklist for someone to say that they did it, then I don’t see it as a value of itself. But if it is part of a wider programme that gives these men and women a sense that says ‘Look, I am seen as a human being’, then it is positive,” Gayle said.
Gayle believes that if Kartel meets certain criteria, he should be allowed to participate.
“If there is a criteria set up for the inmates to qualify and he qualifies and you deny him, then that would be described as discrimination. If he fits a criteria, which I am assuming is ‘have talent and have displayed some good behaviour’, then he should be treated as an inmate who is allowed to perform,” he said.
Although Jamaica 55 is a national cultural celebration, senior lecturer of cultural studies at the University of the West Indies Sonjah Stanley Niaah does not believe public opinion should impact which inmates are allowed to perform.
“I think it (the decision) is solely up to the assessment of security risk in relation to any inmate, and I think that is the purview of the Department of Correctional Services,” Niaah said.
She believes that low-security risk inmates who are close to exiting the penal system should be chosen to display their talents in the celebrations as this would help to change the way they are perceived by society.
She lauded the initiative and believes more rehabilitation programmes would help to address the country’s crime problem.