In what could be described as one of the most appropriate titles ever for a book, Kevaughn Irving’s ‘Prescription to Prison’ centres around the day in the then 21-year-old’s life when a routine trip to the pharmacy landed him behind bars.
That fateful trip on April 7, 2007, to a pharmacy in Linstead, St Catherine to “fill a prescription for my baby sister” turned into the worst day of Irving’s life.
His sister had suffered an injury to her eye, and his mother had asked him to fill the prescription after he left work that evening at Trade Winds Citrus Limited in Bog Walk, also in St Catherine.
After leaving work, Irving headed for the pharmacy in Linstead, his mother’s bank card in his possession. However, he did not get the item and decided to journey to a pharmacy in Angel’s, which is much closer to Spanish Town.
Having filled the prescription, Irving waited on the road for a taxi to take him back home to Linstead. He did not give much thought to the fact that it was a robot taxi (white plate), as he saw the driver and two men he assumed were passengers inside the vehicle that stopped at his feet.
His assumption was a big mistake — a costly one — which started a more than 10-year nightmare that saw him being kidnapped at gunpoint, held captive overnight, forced to withdraw funds from an ATM, locked up, tried, convicted, and sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Now 100 pounds lighter than he was when the ordeal started, Kevaughn Irving signs copies of his book, ‘Prescription to Prison’.
Irving, in an interview with Loop News, detailed how, after entering the taxi, a gun was immediately jammed into his side while he was robbed by one of three accomplices. He was then told he would be taken to an ATM in Linstead to withdraw funds.
However, while on the bypass road, they passed a woman standing by the road and the driver, realising that she was awaiting transportation, reversed the car.
“She said she was going to Ocho Rios and entered the vehicle,” shared Irving, who was by now beside himself with worry. It was now about 8:30 pm, and the night was about to get much worse.
“The one beside me on the backseat pulled me close to him and jammed the gun into my side while the one in front, beside the driver, robbed the woman,” said Irving, before sharing that the gunmen then headed in the direction of the Windalco Bauxite Plant where they drove onto a dirt road and took turns raping the woman in bushes.
All this time, one of them kept a gun trained on Irving and even taunted him, daring him to run, he recounted.
“With a gun pointed at you, you obviously couldn’t run,” he said.
The woman was eventually let go after the men had their way with her. She was pulled from the vehicle after they had driven for about a metre, and a hundred-dollar bill was thrown at her for her to use as fare to find her way to her destination. This was amidst her frightened protests that she did not know where she was.
The car then headed towards Linstead, where Irving, referred to as ‘Biggs’ by his captors as he struck an imposing figure at six-foot two-inches and 270 pounds, was told to withdraw the money from an ATM.
Back then, the maximum daily limit was $15,000, and, based on earlier transactions in the day, Irving could only withdraw $5,000.
“When the driver took the (ATM) receipt and saw the amount in the account, him say, ‘Biggs, yuh nah go home tonight enuh, wi want di rest a di money’,” Irving recalled.
The car was spun around, and they headed to Ocho Rios, St Ann, arriving in the town about 11:30pm and, as Irving shared, “they waited for the day to change over”.
Shortly after midnight, he was ordered to withdraw additional funds. He revealed to Loop News that he harboured thoughts of escaping.
“While I was inside the ATM, I wondered if I could just lock myself inside but quickly realised that it didn’t have bulletproof glass,” said Irving, as he recalled his desperation.
When asked by Loop News what went through his mind as he waited with them, Irving said: “Honestly, I had already given up. I said, ‘What is this I got myself into?’ Because I’m not a road person enuh, If I’m going here, this is where I’m going, and I’m heading back home.”
While they waited earlier, Irving said he also thought about springing an escape.
“At one point, I said mi ago try summen, so mi say, ‘Yuh know mi waa use di bathroom’, but I was told not to try anything.”
As he was taken to the front of the car to relieve himself, Irving said he noticed the words ‘cruiser’ written across the windshield of the vehicle. According to Irving, the police, in their investigations, never followed up on that lead.
After receiving the $15,000 that he had withdrawn, the gunman sitting beside the driver told him, in no uncertain terms: “Biggs, a kill wi fi kill yuh enuh, because yuh done see wi face already, but the only reason wi nah kill yuh a because yuh cooperate wid wi and gi wi di money.”
“He got out of the car, pulled the door open and say mi fi run. Mi never listen fi nutten else, mi took off and ran until a reach the Texaco gas station in Ocho Rios where several taxis were parked,” said Irving.
Without any money, a shaken Irving, who admitted that he was in shock, was transported to the St Ann’s Bay Police Station where he made his first report. He told Loop News that he was allowed to place a call to his family, which had reported him missing, and his father later arrived to pick him up.
They would later stop at the Linstead Police Station to make another report but were told that since the initial robbery when he entered the robot taxi took place while the car was still in the jurisdiction of the Spanish Town police, they should report the incident at the Spanish Town Police Station.
While giving his report, Irving said he mentioned the young woman who was raped to the police and, as fate would have it, she walked into the police station at that very moment to give a report of her own.
The now author was allowed to go home and told by the police that they would be in touch.
Later that day, he was called back to the station, arrested, and slapped with five charges on suspicion of rape, robbery, kidnapping, illegal possession of a firearm, and indecent assault.
At trial, Irving was sentenced to 19 years on all charges, but the sentences were to run concurrently, meaning he would only serve five years.
On appeal, he won a retrial and was released on bail after serving two-and-a-half years at the maximum-security Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, more popularly called General Penitentiary (GP).
Yet, he would spend another 10 years going back and forth, each time before a different judge, which contributed to the delay. His trial finally got underway and his new attorney, Queen’s Counsel Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, successfully argued for the case to be thrown out, and the judge upheld a no-case submission.
Among other things, Irving said the judge admitted that the results of a DNA test that was ordered, but which the attorney he had retained for the first trial did not ensure was presented to the court, was no longer reliable.
Inconsistencies in the complainant’s case were also cited, according to Irving.
The woman had claimed that he robbed and raped her at gunpoint. She reportedly also claimed that she was about to hit him with a chair when she saw him at the Spanish Town Police Station, where they both made reports on the same day, and that the police had to restrain her. She later said she thought about doing so. He was freed in February 2020, and ‘Prescription to Prison’ was published in May 2022.
Kevaughn Irving’s book, ‘Prescription to Prison’, on display.
Irving said he was left disappointed but not bitter by the experience.
He told Loop News he is disappointed in how the police conduct investigations and how judges are quick to pass sentences. He is also disappointed by attorneys who are paid significant sums but do poor jobs of representing their clients.
He has questioned how he could have done all that he was accused of and still turn up at the police station to make a report. He also laments that the incident left his family broke.
After depleting their savings, they had to seek loans to cover the approximately $3 million in legal fees.
“It has drained my family in terms of funds. The lawyer fees, it was crazy. We didn’t have it, so we had to take loans. You can imagine that everybody was exhausted; it is like trying to rebuild right now,” said Irving.
“I have told myself that if anybody is going to be okay, my mother is the one. She has to be one of those persons because she was there from day one, my father also, they did what they could,” Irving said.
One aunt living overseas sent US$100 every month, which helped him get through the most trying times while he was incarcerated.
The emotional scars remain.
“When you have the support behind you, it kind of takes your mind off the situation. But there are times when you’re alone that everything just comes back to you, and you begin to question yourself again about what you ever did to get into such a situation,” he said.
In his lowest moments, Irving said he reflected on the story of the biblical character Joseph, whose own brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, which is where he later emerged as a ruler.
Yet, Irving also contemplated taking revenge as he awaited the outcome of his appeal.
“Let me say this… I told myself that anyhow it is that I did a full sentence for a crime I did not do, ‘When mi come out a different thing’”.
“God had the case though; He worked it out that mi come out before,” he said.
When pressed on whether he was really plotting his revenge, Irving said, “Yes.”
Speaking of record, for a long time Irving could not get a job because of his conviction and the serious nature of the charges.
A manager at the port in Kingston gave him a second chance, and he was employed as an electrician, while on bail awaiting his second trial.
He excelled for several years before leaving for a government job where he is currently employed.
Irving is now using his ordeal as motivation to continue to rebuild his life and to motivate others.
“A lot of people are going through things, and when you tell them what you’ve been through, it actually motivates them to say, ‘Bwoy, wha mi a go through a nuh nutten, because you’ve been to hell and back’,” Irving said.
Continuing, he said: “What prison did for me is that I wasn’t a talkative person, I was just a secluded young man. I would walk by you and say good morning, nothing more, but now I am able to actually talk; it took me out of the shell that I was in, because when yuh inna prison yuh haffi stand up fi yuh self. You have to, it’s not an if or but, you haffi stan up fi yuh self.”
Despite his bright outlook on life, the stress of the situation did result in Irving, who turns 36 in September, shedding more than 100 pounds off his 270-pound frame. It was that imposing figure that, in part, helped him to get by in prison, where he was also referred to as ‘Biggs’.
Kevaughn Irving, four years after he was released on bail having been granted a retrial in 2010.
He said his worst experience in prison was losing his bathroom privilege, and having to shower in the open with several men taking turns to use the single shower on the cell block. He said the toilet facilities are deplorable, and the food was oftentimes not palatable.
His confidence in the police and the overall justice system has been shot. Irving told Loop News that he was let down by the attorney who represented him at the first trial, and who has since died.
In the end, Irving said it was his strong Christian faith and that of his family, in addition to their unwavering support, which kept him through those dark days.
He was compelled to write ‘Prescription to Prison’ which was released on May 26, 2022, and which offers more details about his nightmarish journey, including about life inside one of Jamaica’s most notorious prisons and how he managed to survive.
The eBook version of ‘Prescription to Prison’ made it to Amazon’s Top 100 Best Sellers on launch day, said Irving.
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