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From Most Wanted to Most Changed
Today the Sunday Guardian highlights the story of inmate Ryan Bones as it pulls the curtain down on its Redemption Song series—rehabilitation and reintegration—stories of the lives of inmates and ex-prisoners, which began on July 15, 2018.
Prison offers at the Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre (ECRC) at Santa Rosa Heights in Arima, were forewarned of a certain inmate's aggression when he was incarcerated a little over a year ago for possession of illegal firearms, and were advised to keep a close eye on him.
But when the Sunday Guardian visited 25-year-old Ryan Bones on Tuesday, it was hard to believe that he once made the list of T&T's most wanted. We met a young man with a beautiful smile, soft-spoken, and even shy at times. He was, however, very guarded when speaking about himself, not wanting to reveal too much but just enough to let the world know that he was a changed man.
He said living a life that would lead one to prison or death does not make any sense and admitted that it took going to prison for him to realise that.
The last of 12 children, Bones described his parents, who are now deceased, as good people and disciplinarians. He said he grew up in a good home with extended family, knowing right from wrong and never really had a reason to turn to a 'bad life.'
Although he lived in a community where he explained that illegal activities occurred, it was not a community gangster patriarch who indoctrinated a then 16-year-old Bones. Young and impressionable, he revealed that it was 'thug' music and movies that influenced him.
“As a youth growing up, you want everything fast. Yuh know, yuh seeing the entire matrix on television, the internet and media…worldwide, and if you are dealing with a particular lifestyle that requires making and spending plenty money, crime will happen.”
For the former Mt Hope Secondary School student it was a way to make easy money and escape hard work.
Bones dropped out of school while in Form Three and pursued a life of illegal hustle. He was good at his game—smooth even, and was owned by and worked for no one.
He tells the Sunday Guardian: “I was more of a lone ranger,” responding to our question on whether he was part of a gang.
“I took calls. Based on my skills at that time, they would approach me,” he adds.
Prior to his incarceration Bones was arrested several times on various charges including alleged robbery, illegal firearms, and murder.
'You realise the mistakes you have made and to better yourself'
Asked if at anytime during that fast life, he felt he needed to stop given his upbringing, Bones says “Yes, many times I thought to myself what am I doing, but until the divine grace of the divine one enters into you, which is self peace, only then can changes be made.”
Now near completion of his two-year sentence, Bones has made good use of programmes offered by the prison service. He has found a special love for sports and an even greater appreciation for the recently introduced Inmates Cricket Development Programme(ICDP), of which he has been made its spokesman. Sports coupled with programmes in conflict resolution management have helped Bones learn to deal with conflicts in a more positive and mature manner.
“Prison is not just a place of punishment but in here, you realise the mistakes you have made and to better yourself. I have learned how to be more calm, respectful, and considerate of others. I have also learned how to communicate better,” Bones says.
He was also grateful to the prison officers who invested time and effort to push him to do better.
'Crime does not pay'
Speaking more on the ICDP initiative, Bones, whose eyes light up at this part of the interview, said such a programme was overdue in the prison system. He explained that since the initiative was piloted at ECRC, there has been a certain type of comradery amongst inmates that did not exist before.
“It has really taught us how to come together as one. In this cricket initiative there is no criminal activity, no violence in any of the games. Each inmate has really come together working as one.”
But is Bones really a changed man? Asked what would he do if the opportunity ever presented itself again to lure him back to a life of crime, Bones, with a serious look on his face responds, “My duty now is to fight the wrong and stand up for the right...An ex-inmate will always face discrimination and stigmatisation when he returns to society and really it is only with time that people would recognise the change.
A big part of Bones' 'change' has also come from lots of meditation and prayer. When he is not participating in programmes, he spends time before the higher power he subscribes to. He said all he wants is peace.
He did not reveal his next move when he is released, but Bones said he would continue to assist with programmes in the prison geared towards the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates.
To the young men getting involved in criminal activities, he says “Think before you act, make the right choice and look at the lives that are behind bars. Some may live there forever. It shows that crime does not pay and we who are incarnated should be example enough to you, so that you don't repeat our mistakes.”
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