Caleen Diedrick is the newest member of the S.E.T family, joining us in July 2008. Armed with a first degree in psychology, Caleen is often able to get the toughest answers out of inmates with her firm yet gentle prodding. Caleen currently hosts the S.E.T chat radio programme which is aired on Wednesday’s on FREE FM, the prison radio. We hope to post excerpts from the S.E.T Chat programme as the inmates do have a lot of thought provoking and powerful things to say as they find creative and meaningful ways of telling their story.
Below is Caleen’s diary entry of her first visit to Tower Street Adult Correctional Faclitity. Tower Street is a maximum security facility which holds over 1500 of Jamaica’s most hardened criminals. The S.E.T group has already began to powerfully transform a group of men behind these bars…
Today was my first visit to the General Penitentiary and if the truth be told I had mixed feelings, namely that of trepidation and strangely enough, enthusiasm. The structure was very imposing but matched my image of a prison more closely than that of Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Facility. We entered the compound and cleared the security check point without incident and crossed over into the courtyard. Men were playing football and others were exercising but in spite of that the stares and comment were forthcoming almost instantly. Thankfully, the S.E.T Lab was in close proximity to the courtyard.
I entered the nicely appointed building and took a seat at a table in the middle of the room. They were computers lining the walls and a radio station FREE 88.9 FM was in one corner.
We waited as the members were summoned and the meeting was eventually called to order, by President Johnson. I sat and listened in silence as the group structure was outlined and some of the members discuss their issues, namely their discontent with President Johnson’s management style. I observed the interaction with great interest and a few things caught my attention.
Firstly, the deportment and attire of the members left me awestruck. They took pride in putting them selves together and Pres. Johnson was in office garb. It became apparent to me then that I had preconceived notions (however latent) of this group of men; I was pleasantly surprised.
My second observation was that all high ranking members were referred to by their title. This created for me a sense of mutual respect in the room.
As the meeting progressed I began to feel as though I was part of an executive body hammering out strategies for the future. I was very impressed by this unlikely grouping of men who seem very involved and passionate about there respective posts and duties. I felt as though I was part of something very important that had the potential to change the lives of those who came in contact with it. My views were mirrored by the attending officer who firstly admonished the members, then told them to raise the bar and rise to the occasion as this can and will be very beneficial to them.
I came away thinking that all the inmates should be exposed to a rehabilitation program as it not only satisfies their social need to be apart of a group but provide the members with the requisite skills that can promote personal growth and more importantly can be utilize to facilitate a smooth transition back into society.