Ricky Ferlance, Lumumba Matthew and James Hamm, inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison in St. Kitts have been awarded first , second and third place for their entries in the “Circle of Peace “ annual poetry competition, receiving their awards Tuesday at the Nevis Performing Arts Center.

The competition was opened to inmates at the Prison and had 15 persons entering. Inmates were asked to write a poem on the topic ‘My action. My pain. You wouldn’t like to be me.” The competition was opened in August of last year and is now in its second year.

The three inmates recited their poems which mainly spoke on their time in prison and the impact being behind bars has on their life. Their incarceration spans from 15 years to life.

Founder of “Circle of Peace” and former Prison Officer John Prentice, spoke with the “Observer” and explained how the group came about and the objective of the competition.

“This group began in 1991. It started from the prison. One guy James Allen who is an inmate told me it was time to leave the prison and go into the community and help the youths. And I did that shortly after,” Prentice said.

Continuing he said that the group currently has five members. “We go around to the schools, to the churches wherever we can go to help young people. We also go into the prison and we try to encourage, we lift them up, motivate them while in prison. Then when they come out and we notice they are struggling then we go to them and find out what is going on and we try to assist in anyway,” he said.

Prentice said  the idea of the competition came when he noticed young persons “were getting themselves into trouble and they do not know where they are heading. So, I started this program to help them to understand what prison is all about, from the prisoners themselves,”he said

Part of the award is a cash prize… $500 for first place, $300 for second and $200 for third place.

Also recognized for ”Remarkable Improvement” were Dustin Lapsey, James Allen and Ramie Gumbs.

The Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Ministry, Wakley Daniel gave brief remarks on behalf of the Premier Hon Mark Brantley who was on Federal duties. He commended Prentice for having the event and considered it timely and thankful.

Daniel said, “We have adopted the policy as a people, “out of sight ,out of mind” when it comes to the inmates, failing to recognize that upon release they will no longer be out of sight out of mind they will be in our sight and very much in our mind . And that in and of itself give credence to the concept of rehabilitation and reintegration back into our society.”

“Once you put your mind to it, upon your release,once you stay on the straight and narrow you can accomplish much…Everyone falls but what really matter is how fast get back up.”