No more prison drama

. . . but ex con uses skills learned to teach lessons

It is just over a year since Jeffrey Joseph, 41, was released from Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds after spending 16 years and three months behind bars for the gang-related murder of Marquelle Hippolyte in April 1999.

Joseph is now on a mission to keep Barbadian youth from walking the road he travelled, and he is using an art, with which he fell in love while in jail, to get the message across.

Ex-convict Jeffrey Joseph plans to continue producing plays.
Ex-convict Jeffrey Joseph plans to continue producing plays.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Joseph, who was released in May last year, reminisced on his time behind bars and spoke about some of the work he has been doing since his release.

The father of two daughters, aged 18 and 22, said while serving his sentence he developed a special love for the arts – drama to be precise.

It all began in December 2008 when he staged plays for other inmates. His love for that art form has grown immensely since.

He joined the prison drama group, and in 2010 they entered the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) competition where they won 14 awards and a silver medal for their play promoting HIV/AIDS awareness.

Jeffrey Joseph proudly displays some of the awards he won in prison.
Jeffrey Joseph proudly displays some of the awards he won in prison.

The medals kept coming, with silver the following year and silver and gold in 2013. That year Joseph also received the Alfred Pragnell Challenge Shield as the most outstanding actor.

More medals flowed in 2014 when Joseph earned bronze for both writing and directing the play, Daddy, which focused on the importance of fathers in their children’s lives, and which also earned the group a bronze medal.

Now that Joseph is a free man, he plans to continue producing plays with the men with whom he partnered while behind bars.

There are four of them currently in the group – Regeneration – and Joseph is trying to locate the remaining two. They plan to stage two plays in this years NIFCA competition – one to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS and the other in celebration of the island’s 50th anniversary.

“The guys are outside now and we are trying to keep positive and keep on the right track,” the reformed Joseph told Barbados TODAY.

“I believe myself as a changed man, I just need a good chance and I got my chance so I am trying to prove myself now.”

Joseph said he was aware that there were people who expected him to return to his old ways and end up in jail again.

Jeffrey Joseph, 41, was released from Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds after spending 16 years and three months behind bars.
Jeffrey Joseph, 41, was released from Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds after spending 16 years and three months behind bars.

However, he said with the strong family support that he enjoyed, along with that of friends, he was determined to live a positive life.

“I was doing some ice fishing, but now I turn to doing some hawking and sell fish. When I was in prison I learned a baking trade. I also do some breads and sell,” he said.

Joseph is also seeking gainful employment in the cultural industries, with something in drama as his dream job.

His skill for retaining lines was honed in jail and he has developed an intense desire for the stage.

“I love drama. I always love drama from in prison. I have a good memory from doing a lot of reading in prison. I love the acting and I love the stage. It is a passion of mine,” he revealed.

Prison taught him many lessons, the ex-convict told Barbados TODAY, not least of which was the meaning of life.

“I never gave the thought to what I wanted to be when I was growing up [and] I did a lot of foolishness when I was going to school. So for me, my growing up and education really came for me when I was in prison.

“I consider myself a fool at the stage before I went to prison. I was a fool. So now I have learnt and come to understand the reason for life, [I’m] giving God thanks for my everyday,” he told Barbados TODAY in an interview at Paynes Bay Beach, St James.

A former student of the then St James Secondary School (now Frederick Smith Secondary School),Joseph has returned to his alma mater to share his experience behind bars with students and encourage them to stay in school and take their education seriously.

“Most of the guys in prison – say about 80 per cent of them – they come from what we call the lower schools and bursary schools. So we have to take a look at the children in these schools that would mostly contribute to the crime in Barbados,” he said.

Getting an education while incarcerated came with its own hurdles, as some inmates would do all they could to discourage him. However, he ignored the doubters and persevered to the extent that he taught other prisoners Mathematics.

“It is up to the person to tell the person he wants to change. No matter how much programmes they push you in and you don’t accept change you will never change. So it has to come from within,” Joseph stressed.

In recalling the day he committed the crime, Joseph did not go into details. However, it was clear that things had not gone the way he planned that day.

“I went to just solve the problem and it escalated and a guy lost his life, unfortunately,” he said.

Taking Hippolyte’s life has haunted him since.

“It is always in your heart what you did. No matter what you go through you always remember that. You can never forget what you have been through in the prison. You can’t forget the person who lost their life, you can’t forget his family, you can’t forget the pain you cause your family and their family. So it is an ongoing situation within you. So you just try to deal with it the best you can,” he said.

Joseph then stared at the sand as he uttered more words of regret.

“I still feel remorse and guilty of him losing his life. So it will never go away. It is a prayer every day to God for forgiveness.”

The former convict said he was lucky to have the backing of family and friends. However, there were those who had been released from prison who did not have similar support systems.

Those were the ones who found it difficult to cope, he said, as he called on Government and society to give them a chance.

“There are guys out there that I know for a fact that don’t receive any help. I spoke to a lot of guys who come from prison and it is hard on them. Sometimes you go for a job and then you get that job and someone sees you on the job and say, ‘he went to prison’ . . . then you end up losing your job.

“They still have to return to society so it is best that society takes an interest in them and try to help rehabilitate and find jobs to allow them to work and help themselves instead of falling back in a life of crime,” he insisted.

Joseph said it was his wish to “go around the island” and use the community centres as a location to teach youth drama and even get them entering the NIFCA competitions.

“And helping also to motivate them and keep them on the right track. I think our drama group that we form is now lifting off the ground. We are now getting together. We still need a couple things, but we are going to get there,” a confident Joseph told Barbados TODAY.

In the 16 years he was locked up away from society, Joseph learned many lessons. However, one thing still eludes him – going social through the use of technology. In this regard, new lessons have begun, according to the former prison inmate.

“I am still actually learning of these things.”

9 Responses to No more prison drama

  1. Katherine Selman Roach
    Katherine Selman Roach June 16, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Believe in yourself and leave the rest up to God he will give you strength and Guidance when you lean on him

  2. Lisa Yarde
    Lisa Yarde June 16, 2016 at 7:27 am

    Keep your head up to the sky’s and continue to persued your dreams. Always remember our God your God is in control

  3. harry turnover June 16, 2016 at 7:53 am

    A man kill a man and wunna talking bout GOD and keeping ya head up ? wunna should be associating that MURDERER with the DEVIL …NOT GOD !!…and not a WORD about the victim and his family……wunna sick sick sick !!
    He should have remained in JAIL till he dead…ROTTEN and FORGOTTEN not highlighted.

    • Ontopurpose June 16, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      So u can’t pay your debt, except with your life – no second chances? Hope I don’t see u in the newspapers. . .

  4. Wayne Adrian Jordan
    Wayne Adrian Jordan June 16, 2016 at 8:05 am

    I am more than impressed by what you are doing, sir. As a regular attendee at NIFCA, I have seen most of your productions. Keep letting your talent shine by giving back to the community.

  5. Donna Harewood June 16, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Jeffrey, you cannot replace the life you have taken but maybe you can prevent the loss of another life. Maybe some will listen to a man who has “been there and done that” rather than to someone who “doesn’t know what is going on” in their opinion. You have to live with what you have done but remember that even when humans do not forgive you, God will if you repent. Take this second chance and do the will of God!

  6. Donild Trimp June 16, 2016 at 9:44 am

    I am not a bleeding heart liberal so I will not express any sympathy for a man who at 25 years old saw it fit to take the life of another human being.

    My sympathy goes to the the victim’s family and friends.

    This man went to prison for a gang-related murder. Murder is an unforgivable crime in my eyes.

    Just my two cents worth.

  7. jrsmith June 16, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Its funny how you bible bashing people get God to forgive murders , rapists , pheodofiles .. but have hate in your heart for gay people…

  8. dave June 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Well he is alive and he has do something. If he chooses a non criminal path -good for him; good for society. At 41, with an offspring at 22 and at 18 , he could be a Grandfather too considering that he had his first at 19.


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