Life after Dodds
Orlando Lorde picks up the pieces after 15 years behind bars
Orlando Lorde wants nothing more than to be able to say sorry.
The recently-released prisoner, who spent 15 years in jail on a rape and robbery conviction, wants to offer a personal apology to his female victim.
“I would hope that we would be able, at some future date, to meet up, when the time is right, and the healing process has begun properly,” a remorseful Lorde told Barbados TODAY during an interview this week in the company of his lawyers, Queen’s Counsel Dr Erskine Hinds and Grace McKaskie.
While not wanting to rehash the still very sensitive and painful episode which occurred back in 1995, Lorde, who was sentenced four years later along with his accomplice Peter Forde for the rape and robbery of a minibus conductress, admitted that “a number of people would have been hurt by that situation”.
However, he said “It doesn’t make sense going back over it because it doesn’t solve anything.
“It doesn’t aid anything,” he stressed.
After being handed an initial 30 year prison sentence, the men had their jail term reduced to 25 years, on appeal.
The Mercy Committee subsequently agreed to grant them an earlier release on the grounds of exceptional behaviour and conduct while behind bars.
At age of 37, Lorde had his first taste of freedom after 15 years on June 26 and is now looking to take forward his life. He is even hoping to pursue a career in law.
“The objective now is to move on and let everybody – for want of a better word – begin the healing process and look to the future,” he said.
Evidently disciplined in his speech, dress and attitude, Lorde said his last two weeks since being released from jail have been joyous for him and his family.
More challenging though has been the process of reintegrating into society.
“Having been in an environment where all of my decisions were being made for me, where you had more or less a structured day, to coming outside and having to make decisions on your own and interact with different people, bearing in mind that the society gone along and [left] you, is giving me a little challenge,” he admitted.
“But I am doing fine. I have had a lot of support from persons who would have assisted me, like Mr Hinds and Miss McKaskie,” he said, glancing over at Hinds.
He also said his daughter has been showing him around and teaching him about the use of technology, “how to use phones and stuff”.
“One or two friends from school too have been showing me around; getting me accustomed to the changes, like the various Government buildings,” he added.
At just the age of 22, with his first child soon to make her way into the world, going to prison was understandably not included in his life plan.
Before he went through the gates of the correctional facility, Lorde would have been aware of the rules, regulations and restrictions of jail.
But reality sank in from the minute he got there. He knew that his freedom had been halted, so too his dreams.
“On entering prison, obviously coming from a society you would miss the society and have difficulties adjusting and coming to terms and grips with the sentence and the environment and the people. But you have to find out where your place in there is, and [adhere to] the rules of the institutions.
“It is a prison so you have both positive and negative, you have to decide which road you want to follow and obviously the negative road would be the easiest one to follow but you have the choice and you got to determine where you want to go, where you see yourself a couple years down the line,” said the father of 15-year-old Tiana Branch, who was born three days after he was incarcerated.
Prison life on the whole for him was therefore quite difficult. However, Lorde recalled that, from very early, he chose to walk the positive road and to remain focused on his personal plan, which was to stay out of trouble.
This resulted in him being classified as a “model” inmate and an educator and peer teacher who worked with juveniles coming into prison trying to keep them on the right path, a task which he took very seriously.
“When you focus on helping people you tend to lose sight of your problems which is a good thing in prison,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“If you sit down and fixate on your own problems you become stressed out and within the confines that you are operating in, you cannot move away from the situation.
“Let’s say if the stress was one per cent worth, by the time you are done with the environment it actually has a 50 per cent value, so it becomes harder,” he explained.
“If you lose yourself on helping other people, you don’t have time [to be] focusing on your own problems, and you would be able to bring solutions to the table,” he said.
What lessons did he learn from being incarcerated?
After taking a few seconds to think through his response, Lorde said: “Depending on what you do in prison, you can look at prison as a blessing.”
He continued: “Yes, no one wants to go to prison but sometimes the environment helps you to come to a realisation and a better understanding of yourself, because I can assure that there are a lot of things that you would take for granted that a person in prison wouldn’t.
“Simple things like ice water you take as a given everyday, but a guy in prison now when he get ice water he would enjoy that, just that one cup,” he stressed.
“I wouldn’t advise any person to go to prison; there is nothing in this life that is worth it because you can’t buy back any time that you lose in prison.
“For me, I had a daughter and I lost 15 years of her life, not to mention 15 years of being without my other family members attached.
“I lost my dad while I was in prison and there is no amount of money that would bring back those [memories]. So I wouldn’t advise anyone to find themselves in prison,” Lorde said.
Urging young people to stay out of jail is one of his main goals. In fact, without revealing the details, Lorde said he was currently putting plans in place to begin a special programme where he could share his experiences with the youth through interactive sessions.
“I would suggest that the youngsters out there, both girls and boys, understand that every action has an equal reaction.
“They need to study what they are going to say or do before they act or speak and be careful of the friends they choose to keep because the wrong set of friends could land you in some hot water.
“By the same token, the better friends they are, and the wiser they are, the better chance you have of succeeding in life,” he counselled.
“Academics is the road to go. However, you cannot forget to balance it with a trade in the event, like how we have this recession now and many people can’t [find] work they would be able to fall back on something and still have another option.”
He also warned young people to “try to get away from following some of the trends because all of the trends in the society right now aren’t exactly good ones”.
“It is more [or] less a free for all society. You have your life ahead of you; plan for it carefully and know where you want to go,” he added.
The reformed prisoner says he intends to apply these same principles to his own life. He plans to be self-employed as soon as he puts the necessary arrangements in place.
However, in the meantime, he has job offers in the area of research or accounting. The former Lodge school student is also focused on beefing up his academic qualifications and is currently pursuing an Associate Degree in Business Management.
“I want to continue my schooling, I would like to do law. I don’t know if I would be able to practise but I like law,” he said.
“There are some things that needs changing within the judicial process but at the same time you need to understand the process better if you are going to change it. And it doesn’t make any sense knocking something if you don’t understand it. The judicial process in Barbados is slow, it works more or less and Barbados as a society has benefited from it but there are some individuals who, if given an opportunity and have proper representation, would be able to make it in life.”
Considering himself to be still relatively young in age, Lorde also hopes that one day he would have at least another two children.
“But right now, my mom is extremely happy and my daughter too. As a matter of fact, I don’t know who I would be with more. I am renaming my daughter ‘glue’ because she hasn’t let me go since my release. I have spent almost every moment with her and she is planning my days. I told her I have to see about going and working from next week so something gine got to give.
“My mom is still praying for me and is glad to see me home and trying to stuff me [with food],” he said.
Lorde expressed gratitude to those individuals, especially the members of the Privy Council and his attorneys, who played a pivotal role in his release.
“In prison, although it is a hard place to create a comfort zone, moving away from that is kind of intimidating. You are coming back out to an uncertain environment, don’t mind that you have support. You are leaving guys behind that you would have formed some attachment to, and the work that I was doing was valuable to the prison and to the inmates.
“I would go back and assist if given the opportunity, provided that I am in a situation where I am able to meet my own obligations at home. I don’t mind helping because I was helped.”
It is understood that a third inmate, Robin Howell, who had been jointly charged and convicted with Lorde and Forde, could soon be released as well.