Mothers grieve for jailed sons
April 22, 2005

Mothers grieve for jailed sons

Bob Marley, in his “Johnny Was”, highlighted natural maternal instincts when he moaned “Can a woman’s tender care cease towards the child she bears?”

This is a situation which confronts two Clare Valley women, who are grieving for their sons. {{more}}

One is Venita Lewis, a trafficker from Clare Valley whose son Rafique Lewis was arrested on a marijuana charge in Barbados in November 2001. Since the recent outbreak of riots at that country’s Glendairy prison on March 29, 2005, matters have gone from bad to worse for Venita Lewis.

She is worried that there has been no contact with her son since that prison was burnt and the inmates transferred to different locations.

“I don’t know where he is,” Venita sighed.

She mentioned that no visitors have been allowed and confessed to being at a loss as to what is happening at the Barbados correctional institution.

Venita estimates the number of Vincentians at the jail to about 40, and stressed: “It just seems that nobody cares about them, especially with the fire in that place.”

“We (are) really worried. We not hearing from our own,” she added, and lamented that the Barbadian authorities had told her: “You can’t get any information until the prison is rebuilt.” But she craves for information about Rafique, the second of her six children.

Venita Lewis is not alone in her quest. Letsie Slater, a mother of seven, is similarly worried about her son’s plight. Her second son Emery Richardson has been in the Barbados jail since July 2002. Her woes are compounded, for in addition to having lost contact with her son, she is perplexed that since his arrest, there has been no court hearing to determine justice for him.

“Every minute they say them ah carry him court,” Slater outlined, but since March 29, there has been no contact with him. “Me nah know if he dead, if he bun up. Dah one dey rough,” she declared.

Slater noted that her sister attempted to visit Richardson at Glendairy, but she was refused permission.

“Somebody (is) supposed to check up on that and see what’s going on. Find out why the case not calling,” Slater suggested.

Both mothers have similar concerns. Besides the time that the men have been in jail, the mothers are alarmed that their sons have not yet been tried.

She disclosed that the men were charged with illegal entry, which carries a maximum three-month sentence. But that time has long expired.

The number of persons imprisoned in Barbados has grown, with regular interception at sea, or with persons nabbed in bays, coves, and other places around the island located just 100 miles east of mainland St. Vincent. The number of airport arrests there is also rising and it is not restricted to males, as a number of Vincentian females have also been caught, mostly with cocaine en route to places like Canada, United States and the United Kingdom.

The village of Clare Valley has had its share of residents caught up in the Barbados dragnet. But that is not the only Vincentian community from whence the inmates at Glendairy originate. Many other Vincentian communities have and continue to contribute to a growing Glendairy Prison population, as the drug trade between the territories remains a serious concern for Barbadian law enforcement authorities. Last week, Barbadian authorities made their biggest dope haul with 2,000 pounds of marijuana uncovered in a raid.

Speculations are that the drug traffickers tried to take advantage of the heavy demand on security services because of the prison uprising. The Barbadian authorities have vowed to intensify the fight against the importation of drugs.

But the plight of the Vincentian mothers seem unlikely to be relieved any time soon, as the Glendairy uprising has caused some disruption in normal operations in Barbados.

The Barbados jail riots have left a scar that will take some time heal. The longing for loved ones incarcerated there will, most likely, only get worse for the Vincentian mothers, family, and loved ones before it gets better.