Hope behind bars

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 18th November 2011

THE sweet-smelling fragrance of a mixture of crushed traditional leaves and freshly derived coconut oil filled the air as the rhythmic beat of the kundu split the early morning stillness outside the seven-foot high barbed wire fences of Lakiemata jail in Kimbe last week.
Khaki uniformed officers stood guard as inmates crowded in the little gap between the guard house and their cells to catch a glimpse of the dancers.
Some prisoners waved, clapped and cheered, others gazed long and hard probably wishing to be with their traditionally dressed fellow prison brothers dancing to the kundu beat a few meters outside the fenced perimeters.
Their faces showed traces of long hard years of labor and lives under orders where the phrase “Yes sir boss” had become a part of their daily vocabulary.
The dancers had prepared well for the occasion. From behind them came the newly appointed Care-Taking Jail Commander Sergeant Leo Hura and the parole board manager Reverend Stephen Pirina leading several parole clerks from jails within the New Guinea Islands region (NGI).
The group was there for a week to interview selected inmates who had applied for parole.
Reverend Pirina said the meeting was not a full parole board sitting but a refresher week where the parole clerks would undergo a short training course in the procedures of parole recommendations, methods of approach to assess and recommend prisoners for parole.
At the course held at Kimbe Bay Hotel later that night the clerks were told to be honest and strict in applying these skills and procedures in the week long interviews and assessments.
Pirina said Lakimata jail holds 43 inmates, four of which were females eligible for assessing and recommendations. Kerevat jail had 41.
Reverend Pirina appealed to inmates who had been named to go in for an interview with the officers to be honest and reliable and provide any information which will help guarantee their recommendation.
After the interviews were completed, inmates returned to their daily chores.
They now begin the seemingly endless wait to hear whether they have been confirmed for parole.
It would indeed be a moment of joy to leave prison life but it would be painful to leave behind fellow inmates who had become their brothers.