Personal testimony of an inmate at Port Moresby’s Bomana Prison
By THEO YASAUSE
PRISON experience is like descending from mountain top to rock bottom. Many of you have heard it said in churches services, the media and in family settings that human life on earth is temporary.
Life is like a flower; it blossoms and withers, we are here today and gone tomorrow. Also our lifespan is 70 years and if we do well and live life well we may go up to 80 years. To spend time in prison is to sever your life-span and enjoyment to the limited time on earth.
For those that have experienced prison life, it is both a rock bottom and mountain top experience – out of that many life encounters are taught, learnt and experienced. As prisoners sit back and reflect, it becomes a stepping stone for change, reformation and transformation. The mountain top experiences are different to the rock bottom experiences. The knowledge one encounters permeate the soul, mind and spirit.
Here is a life testimony that can help you make decisions and choices as you live this temporary life on earth.
The rhythms of life take us to seasons and times for everything. It begins with birth and ends with death. In between the start and the finish, as we read of the wonderful passange in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “To everything there is a season, a time to be born and time to die, a time to be broken and a time to heal, a time to break down and time to plant and a time to harvest, time to cry and weep and time to laugh, time to mourn and time to dance …”
These sentiments carry much of our human experiences and knowledge. We all go through these some point in our life soon after our birth. These events shape and influence our life from every family, tribe, language, village, town and city.
Sociologists would argue that these patterns in life are rhythms – they are music that makes us dance to the tune or a book you flip to read a sentence, a paragraph, a page and a chapter that relate a story. Every child born into the world is shaped by these experiences wherever they are located. These experiences make them unique and special and thus must be recognised and embraced by society.
The narrative is the unexpected event that abounds in society through our human interactions that face us each day. A quote from Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared that nothing is permanent in this world except change. The issue is when everything may seem to go fine or you’re doing fine, unexpected things do happen and change the whole ball game.
Great plans and visions can be destroyed with a slight change to the narrative. Therefore the narrative is unexpected events do change how life is determined and positioned. Changes can be both positive and negative. The negative experiences bring human life down whilst the positive ones lift the human soul up.
Many of the prisoners at Bomana did not expect to be remanded or a convicted immediately after birth. The rhythms of life, their mountain top and rock bottom experiences and most unexpected events and circumstances have instantly disrupted their life situation. Some of those life events are too extreme to be recalled.
It is common knowledge that many of the prisoners are in prison due to lack of sustainable economic opportunities available to them. Many look for these economic opportunities such as income and employment to put food on the table and consequently end up in prison. This routine should be talked about, exposed and solutions found. Otherwise, for many who lack the means and ways of earning a decent and sustainable livelihood it will be a vicious cycle. Thus an unexpected narrative that stands to change the prisoners’ life-long dream of a free, just and fair nation.
Choice and free will
Having stated the obvious above, it is noted however, that all of us are said to be born free, and nothing should have stopped us from realising our dreams, to see the sun and to experience the rain or walk a mile and a half. We all know that life is full of choices in between birth and death or from getting up from sleep to lying down to sleep; we choose what we want, have and do.
Who we relate to, to remain single or get married, the man and woman we choose to marry or who we associate with, where we desire to go to school and the type of job we wish to land and so on. We all have to make decisions – these decisions can be good or bad for our long term dream and destination.
Many times the decisions we make are driven by the state of mind, emotions and out of carelessness make us pay in the long term. Some choices are good and others are not. The good ones make us happy and lead to peace and joy. The bad choices bring us regrets, pain and suffering to self, family and society.
So for the prisoners, it is very important for those reading this to think through issues, assess consequences before taking decisions. It is because these decisions will either make or break your life. Therefore, choose carefully and with attention to details.
In between good and bad in prison – there is the transition. The transition from a rock bottom experience is hard, and burdensome. The load you carry would be very painful and heavy especially when it comes to dealing with loved ones. It is a psychological nightmare as only the strong- willed can survive. Many in prison say it’s the tribulation in Armageddon where all the seven plagues or wrath are released like in the last days as stated in the Book of Revelation.
The place inflicts painful and loathsome sores, sorrows, long nights and trying circumstances. Prison is not a deception but true and validated, a place where the good and bad collide. A place where the high class and the low class meet, a place where you find policemen, warders, businessmen/women, bureaucrats and the not so well to do mingle.
It is a place where mothers and children live with cries that echo within the brick walls; a place that sees no boundaries whether you’re high class or low class. A place where there is no race or distinction between whether you are a coastal or highlander, black or white or even tall or short. Prison is no respecter of men or women – it is Armageddon. It is decision time.
Finally, it is the interaction that influences the undercurrents of prison life. Prison is a place of habitation for as long as it takes.
Although one can live in isolation, it is a place of interaction. It is a place to live and create a network of l
ife-long relationships between and amongst those who want to make the road of transition to change and be given a second chance in life. Prisoners can build a culture of unity and co-existence as a rhythm of life thrown at them.
The interaction created the term central processing unit (CPU) – of self-regulations and preservation. The self-processing, self-regulating and preservations has seen six years of peace and harmony between and amongst the prisoners. The out pouring of the self-preservation and regulations has now influenced the decision making at the Bomana Prison. What you read and hear in the media is not the same as what is being experienced in the prison environment created by outsiders who have not been to prison.
Many of the stakeholders who interact with the Bomana Prison in the last six years would attest that Bomana Prison is not the same, thanks to the vision and charisma of the commanding officer Kiddy Keko and his deputy, current acting commander Yelly Oiufa. They recognised and allowed the self-processing and regulation to be maintained. This has brought about tremendous results for the prison. The prisoners said:
No to jail break-out like mission inthe past – they surrendered all tools and implements for aiding and abating escape;
They said no to gang fights and regionalism and division – it brought unity and diversity;
They said no to cult worship and yes to Jesus – it brought peace and harmony;
They said no to warder raids and state CIS sponsored terrorisms, stealing – community effort and peace and stability was brought into the prison. The prisoners are their own security guards and self-community policing between and amongst themselves;
They said yes to Jesus – more of his presence, more fruits of the Spirit – now you see a Bible college in the making.
The prisoners at Bomana have truly changed in the last six years. They have found a new way of living and a new way of life. It is an abounding life of love and care, or kindness and consideration for others. It is true freedom and for prisoners’, it’s their very own mountain top experience that would guide them into finding a sustainable livelihood.
They have found their spiritual freedom that will dictate their physical freedom. It is said if the Son –Jesus Christs has set you free, you are free indeed. They call on the authorities to give them freedoms for interaction, give them a second change – not to hold the past against them.
If the change society requires is now evident what more do we expect. Give them their physical freedom with love and forgives and a hand with the olive branch.
Our life is shaped by different patterns of life that we come across from birth to maturity. These experiences shape our life and either help us or break us. These experiences are based on the life choices we make and based in our society interactions.
Being in prison and sharing those experiences is based on the decisions we make and how we react to these to determine our future endeavours. So make the most of it whilst you and I can.
- The author is an inmate at the Bomana Prison and chairman of the peace and reconciliation committee comprising senior prison staff and prisoners.