“Apart from being away from my children, I do not regret my time in prison” – convicted drug trafficker

Former Permanent Secretary in the Home Affairs Ministry, Mae Toussaint Jr Thomas, and Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn are seen with Kristy Griffith and other officials

Kristy Griffith, a 43-year-old businesswoman and mother of five, was sentenced to five years in prison for a $1.1 million drug bust in 2020.

Before her conviction, Griffith was a cosmetologist for several years, and was also the owner of a salon.

The mother of five recalled that, during her trial, it was frustrating for her, because, as a very family-oriented person, it was hard on her to be away from her children.

“When I was arrested, my baby was a year and four months, and that was taking a toll on me,” she disclosed.

She said that, while incarcerated, she began attending church, and that helped her to accept her fate; and she instructed her family to sell the items in her salon to take care of her children. She even instructed them to stop paying the lawyer’s fees during her trial, since she was ready to plead guilty and serve her time in prison.

She was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, and was posted to the New Amsterdam women’s facility to serve her sentence.

According to Griffith, her prison experience was not “bad”, since, due to her personality, not only did a lot of the inmates and prison officers enjoy her company, but they also respected her.

“It wasn’t that bad, because I am a very friendly person and I respect myself; so, in turn, I got respect. So, it wasn’t hard on me,” she explained.

Shortly after she began serving her time, Griffith was unanimously selected as the orderly for the dorm, and her responsibility entailed handling internal matters before they reached the officers. She also began doing hair and nails, and would send home the money earned to take care of her children. Moreover, she was instrumental in planning social events for the inmates, with permission from the administrators.

“I had a lot of responsibilities in prison…I started to host concerts, and who sang the best I would try to ask the officers for donations…I would also go to the officer-in-charge and seek donations, small stuff like eye pencils, nail polish, and these kinds of things,” Griffith explained.

The success of these shows encouraged her to host a pageant, and she would assist the inmates to secure clothing, and would even sign out money for them, since she was working in prison. Again, she solicited donations from inmates, who were always more than willing to contribute.

“It was something that never really happened in the prison, and I wanted to make a difference; but, more so, give the inmates a sense of pride and confidence among themselves,” she disclosed.

These events not only kept the inmates occupied, but entertained, while demonstrating that there is always a second chance at life, and their imprisonment is not the end of the road.

On another level, she noted that there were, and would always be, challenges. “Sometimes inmates would provoke you to a lot of things, but I did my best in there…While some of us were frustrated, we made the best of what was provided,” she disclosed. It was, however, heart-rending for some of the inmates, whose families neglected them after they were incarcerated.

“Some of them, their families didn’t have time for them…and I know for a fact that some of them were wrongfully accused, so I understand them and their outbursts at times… As an inmate and an orderly, I had to deal with all the emotions, but it was an experience I will never forget,” she disclosed.

One of the most memorable and biggest tasks she undertook in prison was when she was instructed to do the manicure and pedicure for all the inmates for Mother’s Day.

“I had to ask the officer, ‘How could I do that? Me and everybody in the prison don’t talk’, but the officer responded, “Yes”, I can do it arguing that me and everybody in the prison don’t talk but me and everybody in the prison don’t have a problem,” she explained.

In pride, and without animosity, he gathered all the ladies and taught them how to do pedicures – something some mastered and eventually started doing nails for themselves.

Meanwhile, for her good behaviour, Griffith served a total of only three years and five months, instead of her five-year sentence. Not surprisingly, she was chosen to be a beneficiary of the Fresh Start initiative – a programme which is dedicated to reducing criminal recidivism and is aimed at expanding opportunities for occupational training with a focus on ensuring that inmates develop the job skills they need to enable them to find work after release.

She also received a sum of $200,000 to aid in the re-establishment of her salon. With additional assistance from her family and friends, she managed to acquire a new home, and moved in with her children. She continued her cosmetology business, and is now happily living life to the fullest. Prison officers also visit her to do their manicures, pedicures, nail set and hair.

Griffth noted, “Apart from being away from my children, I do not regret my time in prison.” She is encouraging the current inmates to make the best of the situation and take advantage of all of the rehabilitation programmes being offered by the Guyana Prison Service.

Back in September 2018, Griffith was charged with aiding another woman to traffic 1.638 kilograms of cocaine at Sunset Hotel in Kitty. Her co-accused was, on the other hand, charged with trafficking 1.638 kilogrammes (equivalent to 3.6 pounds) of cocaine at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri.