Thursday, April 25, 2024

A new beginning


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HE ADMITS he was once the Jesse James of St Andrew and St Peter.
The only difference between him and the legendary American outlaw, was that Jesse James did his deeds while armed.
    But, said an older, wiser and more spiritual Livingstone Dacosta Beckles, the string of robberies and thefts that sent him to Glendairy were in his past – more than 20 years behind him.
    Today, back home and nestled in the community of Boscobel, St Andrew, where he proudly said everybody knows his name, Beckles has his eyes firmly set on his future.
    In it, is a fallow plot of land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
    But soon, he promised, there will be vegetables of every kind; fruit trees of every variety and possibly honey, should he happen upon another hive and its inhabitants.
    He has already made a start. The trees and brush have been cut; next he will start to fork and then he will start to plant. Eggplants, broccoli and cabbage are the vegetables he has in mind.
    Beckles, who was released on January 11, was busily persuading the bees to leave the honeycomb he had discovered that same morning, when the Weekend Nation arrived at his St Andrew home.
He candidly admits the robberies, the thefts, even the rape that landed him in Glendairy, in 1995, at the age of 21.
He also acknowledges that part of it was his fault, and part that of the justice system that sought only to incarcerate him, without finding the reasons for his actions.
    “I was just looking for direction and I therefore made many bad decisions and in making those poor decisions, they mould me to become today a better man,”  he said.
    “But my yesterday is just there to tell people about it so that those who going down that road, I will be able to help them to divert from that road,” he said.
    Beckles prefers to focus on the land and the hard physical labour which he has willingly embraced.
    “I just came from pulling 20 calendar years and days so the determination I got to gain something honestly will assist me in getting this here done,” he said as he surveyed his land and the work ahead of him.
        “But I almost half way and I ain’t feel no pain or nothing yet,” he said. And, for that, he gives thanks to his Most High.
“I said in coming from prison, it does not make sense going to the block and partying and those kinds of things. I got to help myself,” he declared.
“I can’t depend on mummy and daddy. I tell myself go straight to work.”
The island’s culture, he notes, has changed in the time he spent going from Glendairy, to the temporary facility in St Philip, to Harrison’s Point, then to Dodds.
Young men, now, are raised by the block; are abandoned by those who land them in prison and, on release, “run right back into their yesterday life”.
“Them ain’t take time out to study themselves. Them just gone right back.”
 It is this cycle that Beckles wants to break. He is willing to talk to young men, children, anyone who will listen.
In his mind, the warm welcome he has received on his return to his community has nothing to do with luck.
“To give luck credit is to take credit for the Most High. Luck is nothing. It’s the Most High so I believe because of my determination to live a better life because of my willingness to change, I believe that Almighty God give me that chance to be embraced by these people of Boscobel.”
Looking back on the last two decades he has spent incarcerated, Beckles dismissed any suggestion that prison was easy.
That, he said, was a myth, a front, put out by young men to create an image for themselves.
Of all the facilities in which he has been lodged, he preferred Glendairy, in Station Hill.
Yes, prisoners had to use a bucket as toilet facilities, but they were able to get care packages from families.
Now, he isn’t really impressed with the trade-off at Dodds – water-borne facilities contrasted with meagre rations, in-house politics and favouritism.
In addition, he accused the authorities at Dodds of pandering to the public image and “hiding up” many of the things that were going on behind the tall, barbed-wire fences.


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