Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

This article was first published by Endeavor, a newspaper at Everglades Correctional Institution in Florida. The article has been lightly edited to add clarity and conform with PJP style rules.

Auditions for the Corrections Got Talent, a music competition, were held in the chapel of Everglades Correctional Institution on Dec. 8, 2021, to decide who will represent the prison at the regional semi-finals in early 2022. 

Only one man can move on to the regional competition to represent Everglades.The judges exited the event quickly after the final performance, saying they would announce the winner soon. 

Those who threw their hat in the ring for the competition were: Martin Puccio, Joseph Ciambrone, Charles Jenkins, Devin O’Keefe, Norman Yarns, Barnett Williams, Lamont Lubin and Jean Caymitte. 

The competitors were judged by Everglades’ Library Supervisor Ms. T. Crumbley, Coach Hankerson and Compass Supervisor Ms. D. Placeres. 

Judging forms were provided by the Florida Department of Corrections and scored on five key areas: voice quality, musicality, performance, effectiveness and originality. 

If the judges were looking for energy and confidence from the contestants, they had plenty served up for them by the time the dust settled and the last man had performed. 

The first man set the bar high for originality. Puccio sang original lyrics to the song he called “Change Your Ways.” It was sung over a beat from Sean Paul’s song “Get Busy.”

With a reggae accent, one unsuspecting contestant cracked the ice with the chorus, “It’s in God’s Word where we get it from.” 

Talents ranged from heavy metal electric guitar solos to drum solos. One of the contestants was Lamont Lubin, who came to Everglades four months ago from Columbia Correctional lnstitution. Lubin performed an impressive drum solo that he called “Groove Theory 101.” Pre-pandemic, he had won a championship for a free-style rap performed during a Black History Month talent show held at his previous institution. 

“Maybe I can take Everglades over the top and win it all,” said Lubin. 

Competitors came to the mostly empty chapel at 3 p.m., to showcase their skills. The auditions were not advertised to the general population. The event was originally slated to take place the prior morning but was rescheduled when a state representative showed up for a tour of the Everglades community. 

In attendance were all the stars of the Everglades’ administration, and a handful of residents who managed to be in the right place at the right time. 

All attendees provided much needed moral support for the performers with cheers and applause at the end of each routine. Receiving some of the wildest reactions from the room was Williams, who sang over a classic instrumental track from the ‘50s. 

Williams is no stranger to the stages of Everglades. He performed the song “At Last!” by Etta James and moved the room like a true professional, his unmatched vocals hitting competition-shattering high notes. The song selection was evidently a wise one because the staff judges were swaying to the iconic melodies before the singing ever got started. 

Another competitor was the Endeavor’s own Devin O’Keefe, who is the head of the Everglades’ rock band. He intricately and masterfully worked the strings of an electric guitar to produce a classic heavy-metal-style solo. The performance moved one member of the administration to playful headbanging, and left no doubt as to why O’Keefe was the head of the rock band. 

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Frank Morse

Frank Morse is a self-taught portraitist, writer and public speaker who has been incarcerated since he was 23 years old. He is the president of the Draft Pick’s Gavel Club, an affiliate of Toastmasters International, staff writer for the Endeavor Newsletter, a prison publication at Everglades Correctional Institution, a peer facilitator in the Horizon Faith and Character Program dorm, and facilitator of the Art Expressions Program. He is incarcerated in Florida.