Friday, 29 February 2008

Paradise with a twist

WHAT SPRINGS TO mind when you think of Barbados?Is it the warm tropical climate, the golden sands, or the clear blue ocean? Or is it the cool, laid back attitude and friendliness of the people? If you were asked to think of a single word to describe the island,most people would say the same thing: Paradise.

Over 500,000 people visit Barbados every year, and almost half of those are from the UK and Ireland. Most come back having enjoyed the holiday of a lifetime. Few, thankfully, get to see the truth behind the postcard image of this place; fewer still get to tell the tale. But those unlucky enough to fall foul of the law as I did are left in no doubt—this is far from heaven. Corruption, squalor, poverty, crime: they all raise their ugly heads in this place, and though I deserved to be sent to prison for a crime I should not have committed, nobody deserves to have their human rights taken away, and nobody should be forced to endure the horrors of that place where I spent more than three years of my life.

Yes, I have made mistakes, and I have paid for them, but I very nearly paid for them with my life, as I struggled to overcome disease, violence, and a fullblown riot in a place where there is one rule for the haves and another for the have-nots, where conditions are horrendous, and where there is no distinction between a murderer and a pickpocket.I have looked back over my life in an effort to understand where and why I went wrong, and I have come to realise many things about myself. Some things will remain unanswered for me—there are some things I will never know—but one thing I do know is that I never want to go back to prison, and I never want to go back to Barbados.

You might consider it Paradise, but I consider it Hell.

Extracted from Terry Donaldson's book, Hell in Barbados. Published February 2008 and available now.

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