I am Desmond Ballentine, popularly known as Dancehall Artiste, Ninja Man.
I am addressing this letter to you in hopes that you will take into consideration the proposals I am presenting as a citizen of this great island Jamaica.
As you are no doubt aware I am currently incarcerated in the Jamaican prison system.
Being incarcerated has given me first-hand insights into same system, thus I would like to take the opportunity to present a proposal to you on behalf of the thousands of inmates who are a part of this system and by large, the Jamaican people. I believe being incarcerated should not be a hindrance to me or anyone else in the system contributing to Jamaica in a positive way.
Therefore, I would greatly appreciate you giving thought to the following, and that it does not get buried in the recesses of your minds:
Firstly, so many of our citizens are in jail for various crimes, but they are not all criminals. While we understand that a prison system must be in place, I do believe that the system, in the interest of all Jamaicans should find a way to rehabilitate those who are at some point scheduled to return to the general populace. It is imperative that the powers that be see them for who they were before they became the people who got involved in crimes or the situations that placed them in this system.
The men and women who are incarcerated should be given some hope that when they return to society they will have options, or more than likely a great number of them will return to the very thing that got them locked up in the first place, maybe worse.
When a man or woman loses all sense of hope for self-reliance, their mental state is no longer normal, the need for survival is what will prompt them, therefore the general populace will no doubt be at risk.
If a system is put into place to counteract these potential outcomes, everyone involved will be able to breathe a lot easier. When melancholy sets in, no one knows where the axe will fall, the only thing we can be sure of, is that it will. So, considering the options that I am proposing to you will ultimately be in the best interest of all the citizens of Jamaica.
One element that is missing from the system in Jamaica is an institution to rehabilitate those who have been incarcerated. We cannot deny that no one was born a criminal; all babies were born innocent beings. The system created criminals, whether through their upbringing or the ills of society. It is imperative that we create a system to help the people who are locked up to achieve self-reliance. We have great tradesmen (mechanics, body-work professional, carpenters, furniture makers, etc.) in institutions across Jamaica who simply wake up in the mornings, take a shower, get fed, play football and get back into lock-up. There are a lot of unused skills that are going to waste.
I feel that I being institutionalized should be more than just for punishment. I am not here to buy guns or form gangs, I am here to change the mindset of the youth and I am asking the government to assist me with restarting a rehabilitation program that I am willing to spearhead. I have already spoken with the Superintendent and the Deputy Commissioner of the prison and requested a meeting from both. After that meeting I would like to request a meeting with the Minister of Security and Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice and the Prime Minster to be held at the prison institution. I would love if they could visit the institution so they can see first-hand what we are dealing with, so they can find ways and means to deal with the problems at hand.
A huge percentage of the people inside these prison walls came in at an early age; their best years are spent there. Their chances of making something good of themselves are tarnished. The burden of the prison institution should not be placed on the citizens of Jamaica.
We must find a way for the institution to maintain itself.
Computer classes, technician classes, mechanical among other things, should be implemented. There are furniture makers who could make furniture, the furniture could be put on the auction block by having a yearly auction. A system could be set up where the
general public can have their vehicles repaired, painted, accessorized etc. at a cost lower than what is being offered on the outside.
The prisoners involved in these work programs could benefit from a percentage of the proceeds; the greater percentage goes into an account for the institution that could be used for repairing the buildings among other things. If the prisoner has a child, a portion
of that could go to that child and small percentage goes in an account for that prisoner so when he leaves the institution he will have something to give him a new start, thus reducing the risk of him going back into society penniless and resorting to crimes in order to
Jamaican people are very ambitious, if a man spend ten or fifteen years in prisoner when he returns to the general population, he will see his peers who are well advanced with homes and vehicles and income while he has to start from scratch. If he gets a chance to improve on his skills while institutionalized and be able to have funds set aside for him for the work he did, it will give him an opportunity to move forward without having to commit another crime. Hence, the importance of rehabilitation should be foremost in our minds in order to reduce crime in the country and empower its citizens.
The framework of the institution needs a reset.
I will fight with every ounce of my bone, my blood, my life, my skin, my flesh and my knowledge until we have an institution where, when youths are released we can see them being rewarded for being the person they have become and not the person they
used to be.
I want to ask the Jamaican Human Rights Organization, what are you doing? There are some older inmates at General Penitentiary, a greater percentage of them are so old, and they are sick and shaking, needing medical attention. They can no longer be a menace to
society; they should be released from prison.
Some have spent thirty or forty years locked up and need medical attention. The
General Penitentiary is overpopulated. Six feet by four feet wide cells are housing three to five men at any one time. Send home these older men to their families; they are not physically or mentally capable of resorting to any kind of crime. The Human Rights
Organization will need to step up to the plate and do their jobs effectively, for the amelioration of the country in general.
I am making this proposal, which will be set forth in a more professional manner, for the people of Jamaica and not for any rewards.
I do not expect to be praised, that’s not my intent; I simply want to see Jamaica become a better place where its citizens can feel safe.
In everything that we do, we can expect hiccups. But we must implement a program that will serve for the greater good. They say nothing beats a trial but a failure, but they also have another saying that if you try and fail, you should try again.
We can impress upon the youths the importance of being a good citizen. In the nineteen eighty’s election, which was a bloody one, I was on the front of a battle field.
Shabba Ranks and I became friends, there was a war going on between Tower Hill and Marl Road.
Marl Road people did not like Shabba Ranks as well as Tower Hill people did not like Ninja Man. I did not just do the song “Living on Free Food Ticket”; I called a peace meeting between the two factors. I put on a peace dance at Seaward All Age School, the first time
Kilimanjaro played at that venue, it was a life and death dance because a lot of people were afraid, but when the dance ended there was full-fledged peace.
We can build back a peaceful Jamaica. It’s possible.
I have been a man of peace all my life; people may want to call me a criminal but I am the first to say peace and the last to say war. I am the first to want to build my country and the last to break it down.
The earthquake we got recently was a cry from Mother Earth that she is displeased with the way we are operating. We need to get back to putting God on the forefront because we are not living right. Father God has gone to prepare a place for us and leave Mother Earth to take care of us and we are disrespecting her every chance we get.
Forget about climate change, it’s the earth crying out to us and we better take heed.
It would be wise to initiate this effort by ceasing to disrespect the women of our society.
A man is as weak as a branch of a dry tree, but that same man could be strengthened by a woman who is the root of that tree, so taking care f our women is paramount.
I pray everyone addressed in this letter will take its content into consideration and move toward making that difference. I promise to elaborate more on these topics once my requests are honored.
Desmond Ballentine/Ninja Man