Dubai: A Sri Lankan resident of Dubai who has been imprisoned three times is out to bring cheer to other inmates in the country. “I know what it is like to be a prisoner,” said Herbert Stanley, a 49-year-old businessman, who has served nine months in prison over a dispute with a business partner and for standing guarantee for a German friend in 2010, in addition to a month in detention following an accident in 2009.
From buying phone cards and supplying clothing and toiletries to arranging for legal advice and air tickets on release of prisoners, he said he undertakes a range of tasks in the hope that they would make a difference to the lives of these prisoners.
It all started when Stanley was serving a prison term. “I was behind bars in one of the emirates where we were not allowed to call our families. Fortunately, my family was very supportive and my wife and mother from Dubai would visit me regularly. But others were not so lucky. They would give me messages to be passed on to my wife so she could convey them to their families,” he recalled.
Stanley said when he was released, he continued to visit the prisoners and offer any assistance they wanted. “My wife also started counselling their families on the importance of staying in touch with the inmates. Lack of communication can ruin the closest of families when the breadwinner or head of the family is imprisoned. School fees and utility bills go unpaid, kids go astray and families break up.”
A father of three children aged nine, six and three, Stanley said: “I believe no one commits a mistake wilfully. They are in the wrong place at the wrong time. With a little support, they can bounce back. For this, communication is all important.”
He said he has distributed over 200 phone cards to prisoners just so that they can stay connected with their families.
“Also, many of us end up in detention with nothing other than what we have on us. So I try to provide some clothes, a toothpaste and brush and some money for small expenses. Some don’t even have Dh10 to make an appeal,” he said.
Stanley said he also helps connect the inmates to a defence lawyer and arranges for air tickets to return home on their release. “I get support from friends, even strangers on the web, who want to pitch in,” he added.
Editor's Note: Those wishing to contact Herbert Stanley can call on: 056-2695499