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Travis Ebanks winner of the literacy song competition accepts his trophy from CIRA volunteers (L-R) Samara Persaud and Dianne Montoya.

Published 5th October 2011, 1:2pm

"Give us the books" were the shouts of scores of HMP Northward inmates who participated in recent literacy celebrations. They were responding to the question posed during the Literacy Month observance - organized by the Prison Learning and Development Unit.

Participating in the recent book-readings were His Excellency the Governor Duncan Taylor, CBE; Chief Officer in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs Franz Manderson; Prison Director Dwight Scott; members of Cayman Islands Reading Aides and other support groups, as well as inmates.

Mr. Taylor kicked off the readings by sharing a section of the book Netherland. Offering words of encouragement to the inmates, he said, "I'm happy and amazed at this wealth of talent and creativity."

Another highlight of the day was the presentation of certificates to prisoners who passed the latest batch of GED tests, City and Guilds examinations, and computer studies.

The activities also included the prison's second annual literacy song competition. Travis Ebanks was the repeat winner of the talent competition with a song titled Take Heed. O'Neil Robinson took second-place, followed by Phillip Rose.

Congratulating the winners, Mr. Scott encouraged them to "practice what you sing".

Acting Education Coordinator Natalie Joseph-Caesar said that not all the men in Northward participate in the literacy programme. For that reason, the month's literacy events were designed to expose and encourage others to take advantage of the opportunities.

Booths set up in the prison chapel featured the services Booths set up in the prison chapel featured the services of those in the support network - Cayman Against Substance Abuse (CASA), the Department of Employment Relations (DER), the Department of Community Rehabilitation, and the National Drug Council.

Amongst those offering words of encouragement, Deputy Chief Officer Katherine Dinspel in the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs said that, beyond the practical benefits, literacy allows opportunities to deal with hidden or trapped emotions, and can also break the cycle of offending and incarceration.

A former counsellor herself, she added, "The trauma experienced by those from dysfunctional homes affects one's self-esteem, but this can be healed by reading, writing and expressing yourselves."

Several private sector companies - from bookstores to salons and hotels -- contributed prizes to the literacy awareness initiative.