This thing of darkness

I acknowledge mine,

There is nothing more confining

Than the prison

We don’t know we are in.

Shakespeare, The Tempest

So many people are living in penal institutions even though they never were arrested, never went to trial and there are no thick walls, bars, or warders. Well, not entirely true, for there is a warder, but I’ll get to that later. They are confined to this invisible structure that holds them in its intangible vice-like grip, like the coils of a python, with chains that are unseen, shackles that make no sound.

I’m referring to people who are serving time in penal partnerships, where one of them is the inmate and the other is the warder. In some bizarre cases, both are inmates, bound to each other with an emotional adhesion that allows no escape.

“Come, let’s away to prison, we too alone will sing like birds in the cage. When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down, and ask of thee forgiveness, so we’ll live, and play and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues talk of court news, and we’ll talk with them too.” Shakespeare.

Oh, those two lost souls, talking of a prison that’s perhaps in their minds, or maybe a reality. Whatever the outcome, there are many couples who are trapped in a penal partnership with no promise of parole.

We’ll unlock the bars to that, right after these responses to ‘Abusive women’.

Hi Tony,

Women who continually abuse men do so because they are emboldened by the non-responsiveness of the men, while most men are brought up not to hit women. I believe there should be exceptions. If the abuse is in public, there are witnesses to self-defence. If the abuse is done privately, there are no witnesses to the retaliation and it’s her word against his. The response does not have to be severe, a quick slap to the face or a couple hits to the backside may make the woman think twice about continuing the abuse, unless, of course, she’s masochistic.


Hey Teerob,

Is long time woman a beat man and get away with it. Is plenty man I know who suffer from pure box down, kick and punch on a regular basis. I even know police whose woman box them up all the time, but because of shame, nobody would ever know. But duppy know who to frighten, and those women who love to lick man know that the man would never strike back. So they continue the abuse. Those who don’t actually lick, abuse in other ways.


Just recently I was listening to my old Fortis schoolmate, Dr Leahcim Semaj, talking to RJR’s Burgerman on the radio about relationships, and how in many ways both parties (or at least one) are confined to a prison. Both of them are actually incarcerated, for the jailer is also locked away as much as the inmate is.

The walls and shackles are intangible, invisible, but the bondage is very real.

” Mirror on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice

And she said, ‘We are all just prisoners here of our own device’

‘Relax’ said the night man, ‘we are programmed to receive,

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’

Words there from the song, Hotel California by The Eagles, which really sum up the penal partnership problem of many people. Ray Charles wailed painfully when he sang, ” Take these chains from my heart, and set me free.” But how does this penal partnership manifest itself, and why is it unhealthy for relationships?

Dr Semaj explained that when a couple commits to a union, the parson should not say, “Now they are joined as one,” for that is unhealthy. Two cannot and should not become one, for by doing so, something is taken away from one.

No two people are alike, and yet, in so many cases one member tries to impose his or her mark on the other and applies strictures, shackles, conditions that confine the other. One example is when the woman, seeking a man, frequents places where men hang out, such as sports bars, social clubs, sporting activities and other male congregating areas. Remember the song, Where the boys are by American singer Connie Francis.

‘ Where the boys are,

Someone waits for me,

A smiling face, a warm embrace,

Two arms to hold me tenderly.’

So they hook up and start a relationship. But after a while she resents it when the man goes to those very same spots that he always frequented, the places where she met him. “You going to the club again, why do you have to go so often?” Now remember, that was where she met him, that’s his lifestyle, but now he must give it all up.

Many wives fail to appreciate or acknowledge that the man had a life before he met her, so as far as she’s concerned, she’s here now and his life has just begun. That man is incarcerated in a penal partnership where his very freedom has been stripped away. There’s the need for a release from that bondage, a need for space.

Interestingly, even prisoners in some jurisdictions are allowed some degree of space for good behaviour, either more hours in the prison yard, or weekends outside of the walls. Not so with many penal partnerships, where the sentence is severe with no parole.

“Take time off, go visit your mother in the country for the weekend,” Semaj advises.

No way, say some women, as they rattle the keys to the shackles and twist the ties that bind. Is it any wonder why in some countries wives are referred to as ‘the old ball and chain’?

Semaj went even further and cited examples of what he’s seen occur during the now defunct Jazz and Blues Music Festival that used to be held on the north coast. That was a great experience of music, lyming and overall fun, but some women took this portable penal partnership even to jazz festival.

Usually after the night of music, which usually ended around 1:00 am, some men would go to hang out with their male friends the next morning or play a round of golf. But alas, there were some wives who would have none of that and insist on tagging along pee pee cluck cluck behind the man.

Ironically, those women did not play golf, did not understand the game, didn’t even like the man’s friends, didn’t even know the difference between a golf ball and a fowl egg, but still had to make their presence felt, interfering in the activities and berating the man’s friends when they missed a shot. “Cho, she just kill the vibes man, for she just keep chatting away and fussing with my bredrin dem.” This perennial penal partnership, this abhorrent adhesion is not good for any relationship.

Now, there are some men who, upon arriving home, will park their cars and spend a few minutes listening to the news, BBC radio, the last points of a talk show, and even check their phones while they’re in the car. Well, a friend of mine told me how his woman took umbrage to his doing that and angrily knocked on his car window to berate and admonish him regarding that practice.

That’s why some men choose not to go home, but stay away as long as they possibly can. But again, curfews have curtailed that. For others, there is no parole from penal partnership. There’s this old joke about this guy who wept copiously on his 20th wedding anniversary. His friend asked him, “Why you crying, Roy?” To which he replied, “I got my wife pregnant when she was young and her father threatened me that if I didn’t marry her he’d put me in prison for 20 years. If he had done that I’d be a free man today…sob.”

Listen, it works both ways where you have wife as warder and husband as handcuffer. There are men who also impose a life sentence on their women who are not allowed to do anything or go anywhere unless he approves. She cannot have any circle of friends, can only go to church on Sundays, no weekly prayer meetings, and can’t even keep in contact with her family.

Now, some cynics may say that historically women are used to that and are programmed and conditioned to accept that yoke of oppression. After all, “they are homemakers and belong at home”. Well, maybe a long time ago that may have held true, but times have changed. Or have they? I know women who are experiencing that right now in this modern day and age.

Whichever way you cut it and whoever is the purveyor of the penal partnership, it’s wrong. A partnership should be built on mutual respect, free of shackles, chains, bondage, but bound only with the adhesive of love and respect. I’m so glad that my bredrin Dr Semaj expounded on this topic, for I have touched it before. Now my words are in good company.

More time.

Footnote: It’s amazing how people who are against the vaccines have no medical or scientific evidence to back up their claims. They seem to have more sense than the thousands of doctors and scientists globally who show evidence of the vaccines’ efficacy. Even when shown the physical evidence of countries that have a declining COVID positivity rate because of vaccine usage, they still have resist. COVID has killed millions globally, yet out of the millions of people vaccinated, only a handful have had adverse effects. When you ask them why they are against taking the vaccine, they say that “Mi hear say it cause problems.” They’ll accept rumours over science even though every child in Jamaica has to be vaccinated against various diseases.

Jamaica Observer