On a faded green basketball court surrounded by a tall fence topped with barbed wire, a small platform stood elevated just inches from the ground.
Frederick Davis walked to it, took the mike and grabbed at his orange baggy pants. ``Before what you see on my pants -- INMATE DCJ -- I'm a man,'' he said.
Davis, 21, then launched into a rap in front of the 14 other inmates sitting in rows of plastic chairs. He was taking part in the second annual Corrections Idol contest -- a singing, rapping and poetry competition meant to showcase Miami-Dade Corrections inmates' talents while building their self-image.
``When they come here, they feel like they belong,'' said Chief of Operations Manny Fernandez. ``They're part of the solution, not the problem.''
Sunday's competition at the Metro West Detention Center west of Doral is an annual event planned by the Inmate Special Events Committee. Created three years ago by Fernandez, the committee includes recreation officers from all of the Miami-Dade County Corrections facilities, who also organize basketball, volleyball and Ping-Pong tournaments.
``It gives the inmates better things to do,'' said officer Derwin Roach, ``because they know if they get involved in an altercation, they can't participate.''
The judges were high-ranking corrections officers who sat at a small table under a tent at center court.
The performers -- inmates convicted of or awaiting trial on misdemeanor or felony charges -- relished the opportunity to show off their talent in front of their peers and in front of a camera operated by a corrections officer.
Cortez Atkins, 32, didn't bother to step onto the stage, but instead walked from side to side of the basketball court, bringing inmates to their feet as they sang along to the chorus of his original rap about the consequences of not treating women well.
An officer pressed against the fence from the outside, his fingers gripping the chain links, his head bobbing with the rhythm. Atkins won second place for his performance.
``I feel good. I feel wonderful inside,'' said Atkins, who is awaiting trial on drug, alcohol and domestic-violence charges.
For Idol champion Andrew Cashmere, 38, performing is something inside him that he can't control -- he said he once dented his mother's refrigerator door, much to her annoyance, while coming up with beats.
``When I see the crowd, my mind goes crazy,'' said Cashmere, who is awaiting trial on firearm-related charges. ``You gotta pull my cord. You gotta put a lock on my mouth. I can't stop.''
Cashmere performed an original religious reggae rap with Anthony Mathis, 41, beat-boxing in the background.
``It's a pleasure to be able to be here and perform,'' said Cashmere, who also won last year's competition.
Clark sang an original gospel song about following dreams, and Stanley Jaboin, 22, rapped about Georgie, a girl who he said has been the love of his life since middle school.
``We have some talented people behind bars,'' said officer Stephanie Bowling. ``There is something positive in everyone.''
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