Jamaica | Feb 3, 2023

Get Out Stay Out (GOSO): Cecile Black, helping reduce recidivism with grassroots project

Candice Stewart

Candice Stewart / Our Today

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Attorney-at-law, Cecile Black with clients of the Get Out, Stay Out project at the Northeastern Legal Aid Society office in Portland. (Contributed Photo: Cecile Black)

Not all heroes wear masks and capes. Some are the everyday people we encounter in our lives. Cecile Black, Attorney-at-law and CEO of the Northeastern Legal Aid Society (NELAS) is one such person. She doesn’t consider herself a hero. Instead, she identifies as a “small-town attorney with big dreams” who tries to positively impact the lives of her clients by representing them beyond the extent of their closed cases through her grassroots project, Get Out, Stay Out (GOSO). 

“The Get Out, Stay Out project aims to reduce recidivism rates among clients whose cases are closed and they are out of jail and the court system. We want them to get out and stay out of jail, become gainfully employed, make honest money, and continuously elevate themselves, and be positive contributors to society. Our mandate also includes helping them find jobs and placing them in different industries,” says Black.

“We may send them to learn skills if they’re interested, we help to find jobs for those who are already skilled in specific trades, and for those who are unable to find employment, we identify what their interests are and guide them accordingly,” she continues.

The Northeastern Legal Aid Society in Portland. (Contributed Photo: Cecile Black)

The grassroots project was launched in March of 2022 at the NELAS offices in Portland and funded mostly through Ms. Black’s personal funds. 

As described by Black, a majority of her clients who receive a not guilty verdict often find it difficult to gain employment due to the stigma associated with them being in contact with the law. Community members aware of the cases tend to deny some of her clients a fair chance at gaining employment and make their lives more difficult. 

“People see a weed-smoking, canerow hair, pants down him bottom, wuckless, teefing bwoy/girl. But I see a government name – someone who is in trouble and wants someone to see them as a human. To witness the joy in their faces and hear them say they didn’t imagine anyone would believe them and fight for them, I want to see more of that,” she says. 


“There was this one boy, Jason*, who actually pushed me to do this because I did not want him to end up in a life of crime. I had about 3 or 4 cases for him and we won them all because he was innocent in all situations. However, he hangs around bad company, comes from a bad area, and he looks like a bad boy. As a result, he is often targeted and gets into trouble by his associations and address,” the attorney-at-law explains. 

After being cleared of his charges, Ms. Black met with him in her office. It was through discussions with him that she discovered that he held no form of official identification. This was part of the reason he continuously wound up in trouble. 

Attorney-at-law and CEO of the Northeastern Legal Aid Society, Cecile Black. (Contributed Photo: Cecile Black)

“He had no TRN, passport, voter’s ID or any other form of ID. It would have appeared as if he did not exist in Jamaica, she exclaimed. “So, I helped him apply for the relevant forms of ID. It was difficult to find a Justice of the Peace (JP) to sign off on his documents but I convinced one,” she said. 

From there, Ms. Black helped him to start a landscaping business. In so doing, she helped him to buy tools, products, and other items he needed to get his business up and running.

It was through helping this young man that she was moved to help other clients after their cases ended. 


Interestingly, most of Ms. Black’s clients benefiting from the GOSO project are illiterate. In an effort to help them, she connects with the director of the HEART Trust in Portland. From there they work to get the GOSO clients enrolled in specialised programmes to improve their reading and writing skills. Once their literacy rates improve, the plan is to help them reintegrate further in society by way of gainful employment. However, more assistance is needed.

As the project nears its first anniversary, Ms. Black hopes to add more structure in an effort to attract volunteers, potential partners, collaborators, and investors. 

Attorney-at-law and CEO of the Northeastern Legal Aid Society, Cecile Black. (Contributed Photo: Cecile Black)

“I really need volunteers and partnerships to help the GOSO project achieve more. My personal funds are not enough,” she said. “I also have intentions to register the GOSO project as a charitable organisation,” she said. 

This year, Ms. Black hopes to host a series of live music shows to raise funds for the GOSO project as well as to increase awareness about the project and her efforts thus far. She intends to execute a number of other events and smaller projects that will benefit the project and the clients. 

To get in touch with Ms. Black through the GOSO project, reach out on Instagram at @the_goso_project.

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