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Nadia’s path to prison reform

Published: 
Friday, November 24, 2017
Ex-inmate aims to change penal system
Former prison inmate and mother of two Nadia Pooran during the interview at her Tumpuna Courts home, Arima. PICTURE ABRAHAM DIAZ

Over a decade ago Nadia Pooran’s name dominated headlines.

So did details of the murder to which she admitted being an accessory.

The killing of a retired school teacher was described as demonic, merciless and evil by the courts, but Nadia is today saying the true story about the murder is yet to be told.

“He came at us,” she said, as she recounted the moments that led to the deadly confrontation.

It’s all she will say about that incident for now, as she is working on a film based on the incident.

But while telling her truth is important, Nadia is more concerned about sharing the lessons she learnt from a younger, angry and abused version of herself.

“A person doesn’t just get up one morning and go to a bar and lime and decide to kill somebody,” she said.

She admits to being very angry with the victim, but in retrospect says her anger didn’t start there.

A childhood of trauma could be part of the cause. At five years old, she found herself running from men who wanted to rape her. Over the years, some were successful and at 16 she became pregnant as a result.

By the time of the killing she had two children—one was only days old when she was taken into custody. Poverty also added pressure to Nadia’s already difficult existence.

She is now open about the pain she felt then. She admits to rebelling as a young person and bringing pain to her family, especially her mother.

Nadia said the first few months of incarceration were extremely difficult. The only time she saw her young baby was when her mother timed the passage of the prison van along the bus route. She would hold him up for Nadia to glimpse him through a small hole as the van sped past.

It’s these experiences that have brought her to be an advocate for prison reform. During her 13 years behind bars, Nadia earned passes in 15 CXC and CAPE subjects among other qualifications.

On the lessons learnt at that time, she said: “We need to stand out for ourselves and own up. Accept what we did and learn to move on. Forgive self and learn to move on.”

Her experiences as an inmate drive Nadia to help others behind bars. She remembers the attitude of some prison officers and the general treatment meted out to inmates.

“We are already punished by the courts, why further punish us? We still need to eat, still need to go to the doctor, still need love and care and attention, even though we may be a mass murderer we are human beings as well,” she said.

She remembers the threats to cut annual family visits short if women expressed too much emotion upon seeing their children. These are the things Nadia says need to change if inmates are to heal and reintegrate into society.

Since her release last year, Nadia has found that the punishment seems to be continuing. She hasn’t been able to find a job and when her home was destroyed by fire, an official told her she didn’t qualify for HDC housing due to her criminal record.

Fortunately, her personal development has not been stymied. As a result of interventions from her psychologist Keisha Ann Alleyne, Nadia has been able to come to terms with her actions and make amends with those she has hurt.

“I found peace, I found self. Until I was comfortable enough to reach out to the victim’s family and apologise for my part. And I wrote them many times and apologised as well,” she said.

Nadia and Alleyne are hoping to establish an NGO to help others struggling to come to terms with the effects of trauma, pain and the resulting actions. Alleyne said there are many people dealing with the negative effects of childhood trauma and don’t know it.

“Most trauma and the way people turn out today is because of what happened in childhood. And that goes straight across the board no matter what part of society you belong to.”

The two recently travelled to Norway to observe the penal system there. They’ve returned with initiatives they believe could improve the administration of justice here and truly help inmates to reform.

GOLDA LEE-BRUCE