Belfast Telegraph

Remorseful inmate wins poem contest

A remorseful prisoner has won a novel poetry competition by writing about his regret at having to spend Christmas away from his family.

In the verse the former drug abuser pledges to give his loved ones the present of changing his life around.

The winning poem - called Next Christmas - was selected from a variety of works by inmates who entered the contest run by the Northern Ireland Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe.

Mrs McCabe said the aim of the initiative was to engage prisoners in a constructive and meaningful activity.

The ombudsman also invited prisoners to design her office's official Christmas card, which was issued with a special booklet of the poems submitted.

"Choosing a winner in both categories was a difficult task given the very high standard of work produced," said Mrs McCabe.

"We were delighted with the quantity and quality and we thank all those prisoners who took part and the staff who helped them to achieve these outstanding results.

"One of our key aims when we are investigating complaints is to contribute to the achievement of a prison environment that is constructive and purposeful. I am, therefore, delighted that prisoners enjoyed working on entries for our competition."

All entries to the competition, which were based on the theme "Thoughts for Christmas and hopes for the future", were judged by Mrs McCabe, BBC TV and radio presenter Wendy Austin and former Assembly member Eileen Bell.

Mrs McCabe added: "Every prisoner who took part has been given copies of the poetry booklet. Christmas is a hard time to be separated from family and friends and I know that those who contributed appreciated having the chance to share their poems."

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