Corrections officer loves bringing Christmas cheer to inmates
Neatly, Cleopatra Howard-Burton folds a multicoloured fabric in preparation for Christmas Day celebrations at the Tamarind Farm Adult Correctional Centre.
When THE WEEKEND STAR entered the grounds of the St Catherine-based facility, inmates, under the supervision of Howard-Burton, were hanging decorations for their Christmas Day dinner. Strips of burgundy and gold material near the fences, bring a sense of cheer and goodwill synonymous with the Yuletide season. Howard-Burton has been a corrections officer for 18 years, a job she was led to because of her early years living in Waterhouse, St Andrew.
As a corrections officer, she believes it is her duty to rehabilitate individuals in the penal system and help them reintegrate into society. She uses her skills in decorating, floral arrangement, millinery, and fashion designing to impart to the inmates. It is for this reason she prides herself in decorating on Christmas holidays.
"Working on Christmas Day, I have learnt over the years to adapt, because here (at Tamarind Farm) I know I have family. Even though I know my family is personal, if I have to work, I work. In here, we have built a family bond and the inmates are away from their families and we now have to form a new family bond with them.
Spreading the joy
Working on the holidays is not so much a burden for me, even though I would love to be home. But I can take my Christmas on Boxing Day or the New Year," she said.
Going further, she said she looks forward to spending Christmas with the inmates, spreading the joy of the season. She said it was necessary to ensure that inmates can enjoy a Christmas filled with good food, fun and laughter although incarcerated.
She said the facility would host games day, concerts, carolling and even entertainment from the correctional officers themselves. "You want them to feel at home, so we try to bring Christmas to them."
Howard-Burton also jokingly admitted that working on Christmas Day, means being away from the tedious Yuletide preparations at home.
"As a woman at home, you know we are relied on to do the preparations for Christmas dinner but I'll come to work just to avoid it," she laughed.