Superintendent in charge at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, Albert Brown, interacts with the finalists of the FREE Bee Spelling competition held at the facility on Tuesday.
ONE thousand words in six weeks was the boast among inmates at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre (TSACC) who participated in the FREE (Furthering Rehabilitation through Education and Empowerment) Bee Spelling competition held at the facility last Tuesday.
Twelve finalists who made it through the elimination phase of the competition vied for the top position as champion speller. The inmates shared their excitement with the Jamaica Observer describing hours of intense preparation. One inmate, at 64 years old, was in his third year entering the competition.
“This is something that I look forward to and train very hard for. It’s a good thing to be a part of because it teaches us how to conduct ourselves and be good persons. I want to place second so I can enter again next year,” said the inmate.
“For me it takes my mind off the whole environment. It took me six weeks to swat close to a thousand words and I know I will win,” said another competitor who has been incarcerated for just a year.
A 21-year-old serving a 15-year sentence said he is making use of his time. “I told myself that even though I got time, I was not going to waste it. It’s tough but it’s just a long process. I didn’t get to finish school because I was in jail. I just did maths and English in CXC, and I am going for two more,” said the young inmate.
The finalists faced off in three rounds, each contestant spelling six words in the first two. Steady elimination left eight spellers in the last round when the judges had exhausted their list of words and had to resort to the dictionary to keep the competition going until a champion emerged.
Superintendent in charge of TSACC Albert Brown said the competition is among the most sought-after rehabilitative programmes offered to inmates.
“In the beginning, not a lot of inmates wanted to be a part of it because of the words, but at the end of it they realised that the experience was good and the competition was something that was exciting. They started to get involved. We had some elderly inmates who were in it and it caused some younger inmates to be jealous. Because of that we started to get a big turnout and we had to do the elimination early in order to have a reasonable number of inmates in the competition,” said Superintendent Brown.
The programme is geared toward promoting literacy and providing participants with a positive goal to work toward. Volunteer and co-creator of the programme Sheryl Haye told the Sunday Observer that the annual spell has encouraged more inmates to attend school inside the prison since its inception in 2015.
“The competition has seen the participants developing academically, socially, and mentally. It has greatly enhanced their rehabilitation and empowered them to be all they can be. Since the start of the competition, the school population has increased — the competition being a contributing factor. We sincerely believe that if everyone gets wholeheartedly on board, this competition can be even more of a success,” Haye said.
The competition was the idea of an inmate who recognised a trend of illiteracy among persons who attended the school inside the prison. “I realised that my fellow inmates could not read. I’m a former Spelling Bee champion, so I thought of using this as a way to get them to come to school,” said the inmate.
Speaking at the grand finals, minister of state in the Ministry of National Security Rudyard Spencer congratulated the finalists and applauded the organisers of the competition
“I want to commend everyone — inmates, staff, and stakeholders — who were instrumental in putting this competition together. To the inmates, I want you to remember that you are all winners. Being in the finals means you have already won. Your hard work has paid off and I want to congratulate all of you. Continue to do well,” Spencer urged them.
Source: Jamaica Observer