PEP COLUMN: The Raul Garcia test of kindness
Barbados’ international reputation as the third freest country in the world is being put to the test with the Raul Garcia saga – as is its reputation as a Christian country.
Have we Barbadians genuinely taken to heart Christ’s injunction to extend assistance and relief to the suffering and the stranger?
Fifty-eight-year-old Raul Garcia committed the vile crime of attempting to use Barbados as a trans-shipment country for drugs destined for North America. The drugs were intercepted here and Garcia was arrested, tried, convicted and given a 20-year prison sentence.
Mr Garcia served his sentence, during which his punishment was magnified by the fact that his eldest son became addicted to the same type of drugs that Garcia had trafficked and died of a drug overdose, shattering Garcia emotionally. His prison counsellor confirmed that it caused him to reflect deeply on the error of his ways and to commit to transforming himself.
His punishment was also intensified by his having to serve his sentence in a foreign land, separated from his elderly parents – particularly his now 88-year-old mother – and his three surviving children, one of whom became a soldier in the Canadian army and is now confined to a mental institution.
Undoubtedly, Raul Garcia suffered immensely during his imprisonment! But what effect did that incarceration have on Garcia?
This is what HMP Dodds’ then head of custody Mr De Carlo Payne wrote about Raul Garcia in 2009 as he was nearing the end of his sentence: “He has gained a reputation for having a positive influence on the other inmates . . . . He is courteous, polite and demonstrates a level of maturity which has been appreciated by inmates and staff alike . . . . [He] is a true example of a person who has recognized his wrong and uses every occasion to talk to other inmates about the dangers of illegal drugs.”
Father Clement Paul, in his capacity as a rehabilitation officer at Dodds, also wrote this about Raul Garcia: “He accepted his punishment for his antecedents and responded positively to many of the correctional programmes put in place . . . . He is an accomplished artist and has won many awards at NIFCA . . . . He was among the reliable inmates in the rehabilitation group Mission Rehabilitation . . . [who] . . . committed themselves to helping and influencing other inmates . . . . He was entrusted to assist and represent the institution at prestigious functions such as Holetown Festival, Bridgetown Market, and the art exhibitions of political conferences . . . . In 2008, having won a NIFCA Gold Award, he achieved the privilege of selected invitee to the Prime Minister’s Award Ceremony . . . . I can attest to his reformed condition as a rehabilitated person.”
And why is it necessary to subject this type of man to a daily 23-hour lockdown?
Is this the best that we can do as a supposedly Christian nation with a respect for human rights? Is there really so little genuine compassion in our hearts that we are incapable of seeing in Raul Garcia a human being like ourselves, who is suffering and deserving of human compassion?
• The PEP column represents the views of the People’s Empowerment Party.