The Deepest Part of the Prison

Posted: September 22, 2013 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

For years we held weekend writing workshops in the programs building of the prison. 15 outside writers joined 15 inside writers to spend the weekend talking about writing and about prison. We ate together, but the outsiders went home at night. Everyone who attended these workshops loved them. The insiders forgot they were in jail and realized there was a world out there that might just accept them. The outsiders found out that inmates were not snarling killers, but people who had made a mistake in life. One year the director of education said that the workshops had to be moved to the visiting area. Here there was no way to break down into smaller groups, and it was very uncomfortable for the inmates. A camera spied down from above while a microphone picked up every conversation on every table.

Over and over I suggested we return to the programs building. Answer no. Reason given – none. Finally someone told me the truth. Administration did want outsiders into the “deepest part of the prison.” I argued that it had worked fine for years. Why was it changed? No answer.

My friend Mike Oulton told me about life in Mexican prisons. Yes, they were poorer, but families often came in and ate meals in the cells.

Why are the public in general kept out of Canadian and American prisons?

  1. The answer is the usual one: despite the fact that CSC is supposed to do, and support, a great deal of rehabilitation work, starting, their self-congratulatory (and utterly dishonest) documents always say, the moment the prisoner enters the prison. In fact, they can’t, won’t and don’t. Their elaborate pretences (forced upon them by their Act, etc.) at this are never better than a self-serving sham.
    On the other hand, there is a huge vacuum in the needed assistance to those on parole, release, and at end of their term (CSC staff are equally useless and counter-productive on these occasions, too).The John Howard and Elizabeth Fry Societies do what they can, but it does not begin to meet the need. The first days, weeks and months are crucial. More committed individuals assisting at this point could make a huge difference.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      Thanks, Chris. I’m sure you know of stories of men and women who went back on the first few days. Once in prison some of my guys talked about that first day. One man said he was going to get very high.
      He did and ODed.
      You are so right that help is needed then

  2. Aina Baron says:

    Good QUestion?? Among others. There seems to be many games being played around inmates rights and the laws of citizenship that dont apply to them. And what about the inmates who are wrongly convicted?? As much as we don’t think that can happen, it does and it really bothers me.

  3. Joanne says:

    I believe that prisons do not want to be open to scrutiny from outsiders. I think that the less they have to answer to, the freer they feel to do what they believe is right and necessary.

    Of course this approach makes it more likely that abuses–intentional or otherwise–will occur. Public scrutiny is necessary to ensure that organizations having this much power over the lives of individuals do not contravene basic human rights. It simply makes sense.

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