Posts Tagged ‘accompolish’


surveyJack was a skinny guy in my prison class back in 03-04. He had a great sense of humor, but he was fascinated by life in the penitentiary. “I couldn’t get a pass to see the doctor,” someone would say and Jack would question every aspect of it. “Did you fill out the proper form? Did you have to do it twice? If it’s not private, can you tell me what you wrote for the reason?”

Another person might have gotten a black eye for so many questions, but Jack always sounded sincerely interested in what people said and the men just figured that was his way.

However, on December 30th, 2003, Jack distributed two hundred and fifty questionnaires to the men in general population.  Over the course of the next week, he got eighty-seven completed surveys.

Here’s just a few of the subjects he developed questions for

  • Have Programs Helped?
  • Nurses, Doctors, Dentists, Psychologists, Staff ratings –not individuals, but were the men satisfied?
  • How could health services be improved?
  • How could staff relations be improved?

I’m summarizing here, but there were thirty-one questions in all. When he put the results together, he issued a report. In a prologue he mentioned the surveys strength (one-third of the men in the prison responded—a very good sample) and its weaknesses (he had no access to scientific survey material, no comparisons, no help from a university)

A example question was number 7. He gave a commentary, a statistical summary(not here) and a graph.

Question 7  How would you rate the services of the nursing staff?

Poor                 Adequate                      Good                Excellent           I Don’t Go

The nursing staff received the highest overall approval rating of the five professional categories surveyed.  More than three quarters of the men of Matsqui rated the nurses in a favourable light.  One nurse was singled out in several of the surveys as incompetent or hazardous.  If it weren’t for her, the rating would have been more positive.  Two nurses were mentioned as outstanding.  Five respondents indicated they don’t go, and one did graphnot answer this question.  Chart 7 displays the data from the remaining replies.(I can’t seem to copy the graph with responses in blue– adequate almost 40%, poor just over 20%)

At the end, Jack and the other men on the inmate committee made 13 recommendations, a sample of which:

  • Truly involve a man in the creation of a realistic Correctional Plan.   Review and revamp all Correctional Plans to reflect a balanced approach to rehabilitation, including methods such as:  Learning a Trade, Higher Education, Individual Counselling, Drug Therapies, Medical Treatment, Sports and Leisure, and Social Contact.       
  • “Better Food” tops the list of any concern posited by the men.  Substantially increase the allowed yearly spending limits so that one may order food from savings.
  • Lift the moratorium on computers.  In addition, create a computer center with limited Internet capabilities.  Allow responsible prisoners full access to the Internet on their personal computers.
  • Relieve IPO’s (Internal Parole Officers – like social workers) from mundane tasks.
  • Eliminate the use of the words ‘inmate’ and ‘offender.’  They are unnecessary and derogatory.  Do not replace those words with other euphemisms

If anyone would like to see the whole report, I’d be happy to send it to you.

The survey was submitted to management? Result = Nothing

Images courtesy of



My first novel was about a group of hard-ass American prisoners. They petitioned the government for an island to finish out their sentences, their families coming with them. The government gave them the island of Adak in the Aleutians, a former hard-duty Navy Station, a terrible place where it rains or snows 85% of the time. During WWII, the weather killed more people than the Japanese did. A fierce wind, called a Williwaw, rules the island.

No guards are on the island and no social workers or prison staff. The US Coast Guard maintains a constant surveillance of the island so no one escapes.

It was called Prisoners of the Williwaw.

One day I was teaching in a Pre-trial facility and a female inmate came up to me. She was a young woman, maybe in her early twenties. As with all inmates, I didn’t know why she was there.

“Hey, Mr. Griffin, I read your book.”

“Oh? Which one?”

“The Williwaw one. I really liked it.”

“That’s great. Thank you.”

She paused. She had more to say. “I know what you were trying to do.”

I expected the usual – write an exciting story, a page-turner. I try to do that with everything I write.

“You were trying to say that we inmates can accomplish something worthwhile. Your hero, Frank, he builds a society, despite a lot of opposition. He’s not some innocent guy accidentally put in prison, like we see on TV or the movies. He’s a convict, yet he does something amazing. He builds a society.”

Tears came to her eyes. “Thank you,” she said.

The buzzer sounded. The school for that unit was over. She was gone.

It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said about any of my writing. She saw through all the ins and outs of the plot and right to the heart of the story, the theme.

Writers don’t often get favorable comments, but I’ll never forget that one.Prisoners of the Williwaw

The book, Prisoners of the Williwaw, is still available wherever you buy your ebooks. I’m working on a sequel now.