Question answered: Gina Spence, seventh from the left, asked “Can anything good come from Westgate?” There was a resounding ‘YES!” *Photo supplied
Question answered: Gina Spence, seventh from the left, asked “Can anything good come from Westgate?” There was a resounding ‘YES!” *Photo supplied

The late motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, once said: “If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. 

What he needs is education to turn him around.” And for inmates and trainees within the Corrections facilities in Bermuda, the work toward this goal is well underway.

On the afternoon of June 26, 16 men from Westgate, The Farm, and Right Living House, proudly accepted their General Education Development certificates representing the end result of their commitment to their studies.  

On the same day in the morning, two proud youngsters at the Co-Educational Facility did the same.  Others who had aspired to such achievement and who have been released gratefully accepted their delivered certificates with two former Co-Ed trainees being given the opportunity to don a cap and gown for their photo.  

For all graduates, this was a moment filled with relief, self-worth, and accomplishment.  

As all graduates spoke, they did so from their hearts. Many shared their struggles with one readily admitting that it was not until after the sixth attempt with the mathematics exam, and constant thoughts of giving up, that he finally earned his GED.  

The voice of the 21 year old graduate at the Co-Ed quivered with powerful words as she told of her personal challenges in reaching this milestone.  

She gave tribute to her family and to officers she called by name.  Her words touched everyone in attendance. 

There was not a dry eye in the place. 

Of the fifty-four candidates who sat the GED exam in October 2012 island-wide, The Department of Corrections had two outstanding success stories. One of the candidates in his mid-30s, tied third highest in science, scored the third highest overall GED average, and attained a perfect score in the reading portion of the exam.

High scores

Another in his late 40s tied for second highest in writing, highest score in social studies and math, and also achieved the highest overall GED average.  This clearly disproves the notion of members of the public who feel that nothing good can be accomplished in prison. 

Many inmates in any jurisdiction worldwide, for a variety of reasons, have traditionally attained low academic standards. Bermuda is no exception.  

Lack of education will always cause people to make choices that will ultimately land then in situations that none of them plan to be in — the worst being in prison.  

While the naysayers feel that the best way to accommodate inmates is to “lock ‘em up and throw away the key, and feed ‘em bread and water”, the stark reality is that at some point they will return to society to live amongst us. 

So why not prepare them to be better citizens upon release?  

The journey to achieving the GED requires inmates to attend class regularly over a period of time.  Sometimes a combination of lack of self-motivation and other personal matters that may be weighing heavily on an inmate’s mind makes class attendance and completion of assignments a challenge. 

Officers and service providers work diligently to encourage inmates to keep pushing for the goal.  

For many of them, they have had little success in their personal lives to report from childhood to incarceration so this achievement for them is huge. 

Strive

We must celebrate with them and continue to motivate them to strive onward and upward to the next level.  

Lieutenant Colonel Commissioner Edward Lamb is a strong, avid, and consistent supporter of inmate progress, and extends his support to their families, and most certainly to his staff.  

So needless to say the accomplishment of the successful graduates is proof that his vision as the Commissioner is being fulfilled.  As he so aptly states, “The GED programme is a major initiative in the achievement of our mission to empower our inmates.”  

Yes, these are OUR sons, our fathers, our daughters, our mothers, our children.  

And as the education officer for the Department of Corrections, with the responsibility of overseeing the education programmes in all facilities, including remedial programmes for those who are struggling with basic academic concepts, I am super proud of the accomplishment of them all.  

I am pleased to be able to work with members of staff who are supportive of the inmates in their quest to become better men and women.  

Guest speaker for the ceremony was Gina Spence. Her topic, “Can any good thing come out of Westgate?” was answered with a resounding YES!  YES!! YES!!!  

The belief and ideology of John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist and education reformer, has not changed: “Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.”  

The Department of Corrections will continue to strive to give back to the community men and women who are better equipped for a more successful life ahead. After all, it’s for the benefit of us all.