'Desperate' ex-con wants a job

Says pressure getting to him to use knife or gun

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 13, 2019

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HOW desperate would you have to be before you decide to stick up someone with a knife or gun in order to feed yourself?

Such is the dilemma of 38-year-old Raymond Brown, an ex-convict who has been struggling to find employment since his release from prison.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer last week, Brown, who is also the single father of a four-year-old boy, indicated that life has been a “psychological battle” between feeding himself and staying out of trouble and admitted that the thought of robbing someone had not only crossed his mind, but that he tried it recently.

“When yuh hungry, and confused, and frustrated, and depressed and everything in a one, it start affect yuh thinking. Is just the mercy of God a keep mi because the intensity a di pressure weh mi come under mek mi think fi rob somebody.”

“Just wah day mi find mi self back up somebody with a knife because the intensity of the pressure a get to me. It a get to me in a serious way because when mi start think pon the fact say mi cyah get nuh employment and mi cyah feed mi pitney, it mek mi gent angry and mi just snap ,” Brown told the Sunday Observer.

Also a past member of the Jamaica Defence Force, Brown explained that the trajectory of his life took a tragic turn in 2005 at the start of his military career at age 22, when his younger brother was stabbed to death.

“He was just one year younger than me so we were very close. Because of the severity of the military training, it never affect mi initially, but as soon as mi graduate and go home it started to affect mi, and mi start absent from work. It reach a point where I couldn't balance work with what I was going through mentally,” he explained.

Brown was granted compassionate discharge from the army, but soon got into trouble with the law when he too ended up stabbing and killing someone. Brown was convicted of manslaughter and was remanded at the St Catherine Correctional Centre, formerly St Catherine District Prison where he spent six years before his release in 2011.

Since his release, Brown said he has gone to “countless” job interviews, having sent applications to security companies, supermarkets, retail establishments, and Government offices across the Corporate Area, only to be turned down because of his criminal record.

“From mi come out a prison, mi just up and dung a drop off resume and going to interviews only fi them tell mi say because of my record them cyah hire mi. From 2012 mi a drop off resume between downtown, Half-Way-Tree, Cross Roads, Spanish Town.”

“Mi apply fi data entry clerk position, security guard position. Not even work fi bag out grocery mi couldn't get,' he lamented. “ Mi even go to Jacden and fi a janitorial work and the woman say mi impressive and marketable but mi cyah go no further because of my record,” Brown said.

The single father explained that the constant rejection from would be employers and, his inability to provide for his son is starting to erode his “manhood.”

“Mi cyah get no further inna life because of my criminal record and it a get to me now. Mi haffi a rely pon people discretion just to feed my son. It a get to me and it is affecting the core a mi manhood and It a make mi angry.”

To make matters worse, the father explained that he and his son are now living in an abandoned building in Westmore Gardens, Spanish Town. With no bathroom or toilet facilities, Brown said he has had to resort to using a bucket or newspaper, as the case maybe.

“That is the condition wi live under and mi a try fi stand up. We have a second hand bed weh wi sleep pon and a old dresser and a fan. Wi nuh have nuh stove so mi have fi cook pon wood fire and sometimes it hard fi cook pon wood fire with the baby inna the building,” said Brown.

The child's mother, he explained, abandoned them some time ago, leaving him with full parental responsibility.

“Is not only the fact say she nuh have di discipline fi endure the hardship, it is a problem with her past, the prostitution lifestyle and mentality, that combined with the hardship under which wi have fi live, cause her fi just give up and leave him.”

Brown explained further that his son too is starting to worry about their situation, realising that food at home is scarce.

“Mi realise say him start get worried about how him a guh eat because when mi pick him up, him start ask mi if mi buy anything for him. So him start pick up say the place nah run a way where him can feel comfortable.”

“When him gone a school, mi haffi up and down a beg or a try cut somebody yard fi ensure say when him come home him can get something to eat. By the next morning mi wonder how mi a guh feed him when him come home,” Brown explained, adding that the in spite of the everything, the boy does well in school.

“In the middle of everything mi embrace my son with discipline. Mi mek sure say him go school and church every Sunday. Him get award at school wah day for most outstanding performance and exemplary conduct. So even under severe condition, him still excel academically.”

Brown also has an older son who grew up with his mother and is now studying medicine abroad.

“Intelligence run in a mi family. We have that natural ability,” said Brown, adding that even his family members have long condemned him.

“Mi in a situation weh mi just feel a intense sense of rejection and condemnation from my own country. Mi nuh have no family member mi can rely pon. My mother was the only person who would be there for me but the anger weh mi start develop mek the relationship mash up. Because mi have fi ask her fi money every time, she get fed up with me because she a struggle too.”

In the meantime, Brown has acquired a weed wacker though the Department of Correctional Service which he has been using cut person's yards to keep him going. He also visits Food for the Poor for weekly portions of groceries, but this he said is not always forthcoming.

Brown told the Sunday Observer that ultimately, what he wants is steady employment or assistance to start his own enterprise.

“If them cyah accept mi in a di corporate world, the government should a can help mi with some ply and zinc so mi can put up a cook shop and do something fi myself rather than fi walk and beg and rely pon people discretion,” said Brown.

He also raised the issue of rehabilitation and the lack of support for ex-inmates who struggle to reintegrate into society. While in prison, Brown said he passed six CXC subjects and was a participant in several skills training and empowerment activities. He suggested however, that systems need to be put in place to help ex-inmates find employment once they have served their time.

“The Government create this impression that the government is really a focusing on rehabilitation and people coming back to make amends and find a place in a society, when it is the contrary to me because what is the sense of me going to prison to rehabilitate myself and empower myself, and when mi come a road mi cyah use mi skill fi create mi own wealth and have a good standard of living.”

“If the Government don't want fi make amendment to the current working policies weh them have fi persons like me, is either them go back to the drawing board and make some amendment to it or them create some kind of system to provide opportunity for people like me who leave prison and cyah find employment,” said Brown.


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