Remorseful Ulster inmate wins poetry prize
A Northern Irerland prisoner has won a 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 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."
The winner of the poetry competition was entitled Next Christmas:
Happy Christmas, hope you're doing well
I wish you joy from my prison cell
I'm sorry I can't be by your side
But I'll be there for next yuletide
My heart is with you I hope you know
I long to meet you by the mistletoe
The sparkles, the spangles, the tinsel, the tree
The presents, the turkey, the carols, no me
But I've learned a lesson it's true to tell
I'm sober, I'm drug free and I'm doing well
My present to you is I've changed my life
Happy Christmas my parents, my children, my wife