Ninjaman’s Letter Inspires Change In Jamaican Prisons

Ninjaman - "I’m here to change the mindset of the youth"

Ninjaman has released his second letter to Jamaica’s foremost politicians, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Opposition Leader Mark Golding, and National Security Minister Horace Chang, where he mentions several suggestions to improve the prison system and focus on rehabilitation.

In his latest letter, which Jojo Mac narrates, the artist defends the Prime Minister, who he said has been chastised for not publicly replying to his first. According to Ninjaman, he’s seen some changes in the prison system since he released his first letter three months ago.

Ninjaman is currently incarcerated on a murder charge. The artist has continued to make his voice heard behind bars as he argues that the government needs to put plans and other initiatives in place to help prisoners reform so they can become productive citizens behind bars. When they return to society, they can contribute meaningfully rather than get caught up in crime.

In the latest letter, Ninjaman says that his letter has been referenced by the Prime Minister in Parliament and on the campaign trail as Jamaica prepares for local government elections later this month.

Ninjaman | @ninjaman_music IG

The “Things Ah Gwan” artist, whose real name is Desmond Ballentine, says that Chief Justice Bryan Sykes has also acknowledged his letter.

“While they may take time to recognize the letter, they are in no way, shape or form obligated to do so. That is why I laud them in this moment. Since the publication of the letter, I have seen where changes are beginning to take place in the institution. I am not sure if those changes were manifested in thought before the letter, but I have seen them implemented since,” the letter, as read by Jojo, said.

Ninjaman is a guest of the state and is housed at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town. The artist is serving a life sentence along with his son Janiel Ballentine after the two were found guilty of the murder of Ricardo Johnson, also known as Ricky Trooper, in 2009.

Ninjaman’s first letter called on the government and other stakeholders to put a program in place to help rehabilitate prisoners.

“There are a lot of unused skills that are going to waste. I feel that being institutionalised should be more than just for punishment; I am not here to buy guns or form gangs; I’m here to change the mindset of the youth, and I’m asking the government to assist me with restarting a rehabilitation program that I am willing to spearhead,” the artist said.

His suggestion was well-received by Mark Golding and others.