Part of a series of poems produced by the Fantastic Five, a group of incarcerated women in Antigua and Barbuda who participated in a six week Writing/Communications programme facilitated by Brenda Lee Browne who encouraged them to Just Write. “This group of five is made up of first time writers, women who did not know that they could write,” Browne noted. She was proud in the end of what they’d produced. “It takes courage to share your work, read out loud your personal interpretation of life,” she noted. We tend to have an out of sight, out of mind attitude to people who’ve run afoul of the law and been locked away from society. This series of poems reminds us that, like anyone else, they just want to be heard.
My short story is about being in prison. At a young age, my first experience of being in prison was the most trying times in my life. Being the youngest I felt I was not capable in my own strength to go through the years…….
I was sitting in the courtroom, with my family and friends sitting behind me. Within a matter of minutes I heard my name called. I started trembling, walking towards the front of the courtroom into the box. All eyes were fixed on me. I stood in the box facing the judge. I heard his voice, but as my mind wondered off, I didn’t hear anything he was saying. I started to pray to God. I heard my name called loudly and as I looked up, I saw the clerk standing and was ready to read out my charges. As she reads she asked “how do you plead guilty or not guilty?” Just as my lawyer told me to say, that’s exactly what I said – “Not guilty to Murder, but guilty to manslaughter”.
After I made my plea, my mind wondered away once again. But this time, I could hear the sound of the voices. It was all sounding like confusion in my ears. An officer told me to step down from the box and two other officers escorted me out of the courtroom. I didn’t know what had transpired while standing in the box. I asked one of the officers what the judge had said. He told me that I was remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison until the following week.
As I was walking down the steps to be locked in the cell, I felt as if I was dreaming and waiting for the dream to end. While I was in the cell, I was wondering what is really going on. I started to cry, until my head hurt. I began to ask myself “Why me? Why me?”
I was then taken to a bus, where I was transported to Her Majesty’s Prison. When I arrived at the prison, I was afraid, I didn’t even know what to expect. All sorts of thoughts were running through my mind: “What’s going to happen to me? How am I going to survive and all negative”?
First I was searched, and then stripped of all my jewelry, the prison officer that was on duty, collected some information from me, as to how old I am, my name and nationality etc.
When she was finished with me, she told me to have a seat, I was so nervous; my eyes rolling around like a ball. I felt as if my life had ended right there. Then an inmate came up to me with a sheet and a blanket to make the bed and a towel. They showed me where I’ll be sleeping and I went and make-up the bed. After I was done, I laid down and started crying.
They all came (except one) and comforted me and prayed with me, and then they introduced themselves to me. It made me feel a little better, knowing that all hope is not lost, but I still had that burden to bear. I didn’t have the appetite to eat, and I was tired and couldn’t sleep, it was a restless time for me. I was just hoping for the next court day to come ASAP, wishing for everything to be over and done with.
The day before the next court date, the inmates and I had a little prayer and worship. The court day, I got ready for court the morning and I prayed for God’s divine favour, and to forgive me and have mercy upon me. When I arrived at court, I went straight to the court room. My family was there as always waiting to see me.
When it was time for me to go on the stand, I was walking over to the box; I looked over at my mum. I could actually feel the pain she was feeling at that moment; I was trying to hold back my emotions, but I felt it was too much, so I had to let go, and let it all out. I was praying so much and so hard.
When I heard how much time I got, at first I thought I wasn’t going to make it. But when I went out of the court room, and into the cell downstairs, I thank God for the time I got because I could have gotten more time than that. Even though it wasn’t going to be easy, I know he will bring me through it…..
These pieces from the writing/communications programme facilitated by Brenda Lee Browne, in the women’s section of Antigua and Barbuda’s prison in 2011, are posted here with the writers’ permission as relayed to us by Browne. This is for the purpose of sharing the fruits of their creative labour. Copyright of these pieces remain the preserve of the writers and, as is the case with all Wadadli Youth Pen Prize/Wadadli Pen content should not be copied, distributed, transmitted, used for commercial purposes, altered, transformed, or built upon without the consent of the copyright holders. All other site content is created by me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) or, in the case of winning Wadadli Pen stories, the specific authors unless otherwise indicated. The same rules apply.