Prisoners serving life could play a vital role in the prison community because they are a long-term fixture and could use their influence on inmates serving shorter sentences. *File photo by Ras Mykkal
Prisoners serving life could play a vital role in the prison community because they are a long-term fixture and could use their influence on inmates serving shorter sentences. *File photo by Ras Mykkal

WEDNESDAY, MAR. 28: Life behind bars is a daunting prospect — but staff at Westgate prison are running a programme to help long-term inmates develop a sense of purpose.

Forensic psychologist Dr Gregory Kerry, who pioneered the scheme, said: “We want to help put meaning into their lives during a life sentence and assist them connecting up with the community.”

Dr Kerry, a Canadian expert who has worked at Westgate for two years, added the programme had been running for around a year.

He said lifers had already volunteered to help the Bermuda Autism Society, who will mark Autism Awareness Month in April.

He added that lifers had identified a list of charities they would like to help and will make the ribbons to be sold to help fund work on the condition.

Dr Kerry said: “It’s basically a voluntary programme to do a variety of things, but primarily to put meaning into the lives of men who are serving life sentences.”

Dr Kerry was speaking as Prisons Commissioner Edward Lamb today (Wednesday) kicked off the seventh Community Regeneration Fair, which aims to connect prisoners approaching the end of their terms with helping agencies and potential employers.

“Life sentences are getting longer in Bermuda and the question is what do you do with these men.

“The idea is to give men serving a life sentence the autonomy to run these programmes themselves — it’s voluntary and for the most part run by them.”

Dr Kerry said around 10 lifers at the prison, all of whom have served considerable time on their sentences, met twice a week, once on their own and once with staff, to discuss ways to help themselves by helping people on the outside.

He added that prisoners serving life could also play a vital role in the prison community because they were a long-term fixture and could use their influence on inmates serving shorter sentences.

Dr Kerry said: “They can be a positive force within the prison — hopefully, they will help to control some of the problems.

“In a nutshell, this is their home and one of the things they resent is people coming in and creating a ruckus which creates changes in policies and procedures.

“The person who caused the problems will get out and the lifer will be left to deal with the problems that they have caused for them.”