Archive for Tower St.

SET Journal, 07/19

This week has seen several misfortunes for the SET team (can you say three mash-up vehicles?), but today’s visit to Tower St. has almost single-handed made it better.

With Antenna Alliance in tow, we headed over to Tower St. (in a taxi) to do some major technical work. We arrived at about 11:45 and split up into two groups. Oliver, Christopher, and Kevin headed outside to see what they could do about bringing internet to the radio station, while Dan, Larisa, and I held down the fort at SET FM to see what we could do about the funky radio signal.

Dan quickly discovered that not all was right in the land of cables, and quickly fixed our in-house recording system and the signal being output to the antenna. This means, respectively, that we’ll be able to provide you with clips from the inmates’ talk shows soon and that the radio broadcast will now have less distortion. Meanwhile, the internet team found that wireless wasn’t a good option and had started exploring new options when it started to pour outside for the first time this month! They quickly came back to SET FM HQ, slightly drenched, and continued discussing other options.

As all this was happening, Larisa and I were delighted to see the inmates playing with Fruity Loops on their computers although, as Larisa quickly pointed out, we really need headphones in the lab if we want to avoid soundclashes. The riddims they were building sounded really great, and I think providing them with some further tutorials will give them to boost they need to make some truly amazing stuff.

But the inmates were not the only ones playing with Fruity Loops! Officer Simms, the officer stationed down there at the time, had created his own riddim that proved very popular with the inmates. Before we knew it, three of them were jamming to it inside the radio room. Kiki, Jason, and Serano took turns chatting over the riddim with astonishing ability. With lightning speed, they all generated lyrics that were clever not only in rhythm and rhyme but also in content–most of them were incredibly socially conscious and much more deep and mature than most of the songs out there today. This improvisational jam session went on continuously for about half an hour, and I really wish we could’ve videotaped it. It was such a wonderful manifestation of SET’s purpose: we had provided the tools and a bit of training, and the inmates just ran with it, putting their incredible creative energies to a positive use that even improved relations with the institution they were in. It gave us all a reminder of why it is that we spend our days in Jamaica inside prisons instead of on the beach, and we are totally grateful to the inmates for it.



SET Journal, 07/11

Today, Kevin Wallen, Lecia Gordon, Christina Xu, Larisa Mann and Wayne Matthias went to both Tower Street and Fort Augusta.At Tower Street, Wayne and Christina spent some time working on the radio station’s problem with recording, which appeared to be partially fixed. The SET executive board met with Kevin, Larisa and Lecia in attendance (and occasionally Officer Johnson).

The SET secretary kicked off the meeting by sharing with us the minutes from the previous meeting. In the ensuing discussion, there were technical concerns and organizational concerns on everyone’s mind: some pointed out that the transmitter was not reaching all of the prison equally, and it was agreed that work would continue to focus and direct the transmitter. In addition, many were concerned about the inmates who don’t have their own radios, and thus couldn’t hear SET programming. One solution suggested was installing speakers or possibly asking about the use of the existing PA system so that inmates who do not have radios could also listen. The Station Manager and the news team raised another concern: they were having some difficulty getting access to newspapers from which to derive the daily news headlines. There was also some discussion about the need for systematic and reliable communication within the SET hierarchy about new projects, and also about more of this among the DCS officers and between SET and the officers.

Turning to the next in a long series of events SET has planned to develop the skills and build the characters of all involved, the SET executive board agreed on some timelines for organizing the spelling bee that will occur at the end of the month. Kevin also announced that later this week we would return with our latest intern, here for only a week, Wayne Marshall of Boston, who would train interested members on the FL Studio music production system.

Next Kevin Wallen &Co went into the recording studio to observe inmates working on mixing a sweetly sung song that had been recorded previously. During this time Wayne Matthias finished installing some programs on the radio station computer and the studio and helping the inmates on editing skills in the studio as well

We arrived at the Fort Augusta facility in the afternoon, perfectly timed so as to coincided with a new associate of SET, Colleen Diedrich a psychologist. Walking past the puppy keeping watch over the guard house, we made our way to a meeting of the SET-Fort Augusta, consisting of several inmates and one officer, in the chapel.

Today the SET-Fort Augusta meeting focused mainly on building rapport through conversation on a chosen topic. Here, the chosen topic of the day was “What is good parenting?” The SET members, a wide range of ages and experience, but nearly all mothers, shared many interesting opinions and experiences from their own lives, and invited those attending to contribute as well. Christina, Larisa and Lecia shared their thoughts as non-parents, while Kevin gave a father’s perspective. Psychologist Colleen was particularly in demand as SET members asked about dealing with children’s questions about sex or other intimate issues, and the main agreement and theme of the discussion all along was “communication and respect” – take the time to listen to kids’ questions and answer them honestly -particularly about sex, do not be shy but explain the facts simply and directly. Otherwise, they will learn elsewhere, and may get the wrong idea.

Over the sea breeze blowing in the chapel door, Kevin described the importance of linking up SET Fort Augusta with SET Tower Street and SET South Camp – the main way to do this would be through timing events that would occur simultaneously at all three facilities. The SET- Fort Augusta members agreed to shift their schedule to synchronize with what was happening with the other facilities. The meeting ended with the joining of hands between SET members and visitors, and the recital of the SET motto: “From darkness to light, From evil to good, from ignorance to enlightenment.”

New Website and Other Exciting Things

Hello everyone! It has been a very exciting summer for us here at SET already, and things will only be heating up more in the next few weeks!

June saw us working feverishly on a brand new recording studio and radio station at the Tower St. facility to supplement the computer lab that was already there. Construction on the studios finished just in time to coincide with the end of the Restorative Justice Conference we hosted alongside the Department of Correctional Services, with help from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. As a result, we were able to have a grand opening ceremony that showcased some of the real work being done with restorative justice in Jamaica. Check out pictures from the event here!

Speaking of the Restorative Justice Conference, it was there that we talked to several correctional authorities from other islands in the Caribbean, and there’s definitely interest in spreading the program across the Caribbean. Kevin will be visiting the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands later in the month to smooth out some details and see if it can really happen in the short term. More news after the jump!

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