This prison definitely isnt a hotel
In an all out bid to reach any young person in Bermuda contemplating going down that dark road, a preselected group of inmates at Bermudas maximum security prison have given firsthand accounts of life in jail.
The main objective, according to the officials at hand, was for inmates serving time to to tell it like it is about life behind bars in Bermuda at Westgate Correctional Facility.
Four prisoners, Anthony Swan, Leroy Symons, Kellan Lewis and Kyle Sousa met with members of the media yesterday with Minister of Justice Kim Wilson and Commissioner of Corrections Edward Lamb.
Senator Wilson said her main goal was to dispel a few myths regarding the prison system that seem to be floating throughout the community.
In recent weeks, for a variety of reasons, a scrutinising spotlight has been directed at our local prison system. While I have sought to address each issue that has captured the media and the publics attention head on — there seems to be one lingering mistaken criticism of our correctional facilities, said Sen Wilson.
It derives from the erroneous notion that Bermudas prisons are places of comfort, that the living here is easy, and that individuals who commit some of the most heinous crimes in our community — the drug dealers, the violent offenders and the murderers — do not receive sufficient punishment that matches their crime.
Mr Lamb echoed her remarks and said: There is a misconception out there in the wider public that Westgate or prison in Bermuda is a soft option and theres perception that it's a holiday camp.
As you will hear there is nothing that could be further from the truth because prison life really is about a number of things, the most significant of which is depravation of liberty, said Mr Lamb.
You would have seen even from your entrance from the front gate to this point where the security is paramount in our world and that behind these walls its not so cosy a place to live and habitate and to spend ones life.
And who better to express that to the wider public than those who are actually walking that walk, he said.
Mr Swan, 24, who is serving a 12-year sentence for a series of gun-related offences, said: It is obvious I made a wrong choice.
My message would be to set better expectations for yourself. Westgate has taught me to expect more of myself. It pulled me out of the world, slowed me down and has given me the correct approach.
Fellow inmate Leroy Symons, 22, said: My experience in Westgate has done me some good, but I still have my struggles as an inmate. To speak on the topic of Westgate being a Holiday Inn — its far from it. Westgate is a place that will either make you or break you, he said.
He originally went to jail on remand for a murder charge, both he and his brother were acquitted on a charge of murder in 2011. He is now serving a three-and-a half year sentence on unrelated offences.
Kellan Lewis, 20, is serving a 12-year sentence for manslaughter on a conviction for killing 18-year-old Kellon Hill in 2008.
My message to everyone would be, if you are doing things think about them before you do them, he said.
Kyle Sousa said he has been in jail since he was 17. I grew up here. This prison showed me a lot of growth. I want to tell the public this definitely isnt a hotel.
When asked by The Royal Gazette what would they say to their victims families, Mr Sousa said he is deeply, deeply sorry. Mr Lewis said: I have already addressed the victims family so I am pretty straight with that.
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