From the Outside Looking In: Experiencing Incarceration as a Prisoners Child

A call for study participants What is the study? This study is about children in Northern Ireland and in Canada aged 8-25 who have a parent are in prison or who once had a parent in prison. I would like to know how children and young persons experience visiting their parent in prison, what might be hard about the visit and how they deal with it.Who is doing the study?I, Erin McCuaig am a Ph.D. student from Canada who is carrying out this research under the supervision of Professor Phil Scraton and Doctor Clare Dwyer. You can contact me by telephone at: 613-852-9618 or by email at: Why am I doing the study? Very little is known about how children and young persons feel about visiting their parent in prison. Understanding how you feel is helpful so we can let others know about what it is like to visit a parent in prison and how we can make the lives of prisoners’ children better.What would you have to do? I would be asking you to talk about what it’s like to be a child or young person with a parent in prison or the experience of once having a parent in prison. I would also be asking you how you feel/felt about visiting your parent in prison. This would include some of the things that you might find hard going up to the prison and during the visit, and some of the things that might help you when you visit your parent in prison.Do I have to participate? While it would be great to talk to you, you do not have to participate in the study. If you decide to talk to me, at any time you can stop answering questions and you do not have to answer anything you don’t want to. You can also stop participating in the study if you feel unhappy.How long will it take? I would like to talk to you for about an hour and a half but there will be breaks and any time you want to stop for a break we can.Will what I talk to you about be private? I might write some of the things you say down and I would also like to digitally record what we talk about so I don’t forget anything, but no one apart from myself, Phil and Clare would be allowed to hear the digital recording or read what was written down. Your real name will not be used and the information you share will be used for presentations and articles to tell adults and other young person’s about the lives of children and young persons of prisoners. The only time I would have to tell someone about something you said would be if you told me that you or some else was in danger or might get hurt. If this were to happen I would have to tell another adult but I would talk to you about this first.What will happen to the information I give you? The information that you tell me will be used for presentations and maybe for writing articles. Your name will not be shared and any information that could reveal who you are will be changed to make sure it stays private.Posted by Administrator at 9:32 AM No comments:

via Tracking the Politics of Criminalization and Punishment in Canada.


What It’s Like to Experience New Technology After 25 Years in Jail

When I went to prison, in 1987, Motorola manufactured the large, gray cellphone that I used. People referred to it as “the brick.” It had the capacity to send or receive phone calls, but there wasn’t any text messaging back then.

I also had a pager, but it could only transmit digits, as I recall. I had a personal computer manufactured by IBM with a DOS operating system that I didn’t really understand and 40 megabytes of memory. I was told that was a big deal. I linked the computer to an Epson dot-matrix printer, and I remember the perforated paper fed through on a track system that easily derailed. It was a hassle.

Technology has changed considerably during the 25 years that I served. I read extensively during my term of incarceration, but reading about technology felt a bit like reading about typing. Regardless of how much I read, I wouldn’t grasp the power of technology until I started using it. Forget the power, I don’t even understand the language of technology. For example, I never understood what people meant when they spoke of a “browser.” In fact, I just asked my wife to define a browser, and when she described it as a program that would allow me to access the Internet, I gave her a blank stare.

“But I thought the browser was the little text box on top of the screen, where I type in what I’m looking to find on Google.”

“No honey,” she said. “That’s the URL bar.”

via What It’s Like to Experience New Technology After 25 Years in Jail.

Pipeline to prison – Briarpatch Magazine

One kilometre west of the city of Prince Albert, the federal Saskatchewan Penitentiary sits on the site of a former residential school run by the Anglican Church of Canada. As in other prisons across the Prairie provinces, the 20-acre facility houses inmates predominantly of Aboriginal descent. This situation is not unique: Indigenous people represent only three per cent of Canada’s population yet account for 17 per cent of its prison population. As the last of the residential schools have shut down, penitentiaries have become the new form of containment for Indigenous people in Canada. In a 1988 study prepared for the Canadian Bar Association, Aboriginal rights advocate Michael Jackson stated: “The prison has become for many young native people the contemporary equivalent of what the Indian residential school represented for their parents.” Almost 25 years later, young Aboriginal men in Saskatchewan are now more likely to go to prison than to finish high school.

Despite the considerable attention these statistics have received, rarely do we consider them in the context of an ongoing colonial project. We must question how it is that Aboriginal people become tangled up in the justice system at all and why it is that prisons have come to be viewed, in the words of Angela Davis, as an “inevitable and permanent feature of our social lives.” How do institutions like schools, which are presented as disconnected from – or even antagonistic to – incarceration, shape a future of imprisonment for Aboriginal youth in Canada?

via Pipeline to prison – Briarpatch Magazine.

When Dad Is in Prison | Christianity Today

With seven children at home and a husband in jail, Tameyka Powell admits she needs help keeping her kids on track. Two years ago, her young son Kendall Jackson behaved so poorly in his New Orleans school that he was suspended several times a month.Now Kendall, 7, is doing much better. Hes on the honor roll and winning praise for following directions. Powell credits the mentoring her son receives through New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, where she says men teach boys right from wrong.”He wants to please God,” says Powell, chatting in a pew at New Hope after a worship service. “Even when Im watching TV, [Kendall] says, Oh Mama, Gods not pleased with that. This church has been a very good foundation for him.”For years, federally supported mentoring for Americas 2 million children who have a parent in prison has banned mentors from initiating talk about God due to guidelines enforcing church-state separation. Between 2003 and September 2011, Mentoring Children of Prisoners MCP, a $49 million federal program, matched more than 100,000 children with adults. Mentors could discuss matters of faith only if and when mentees raised the subject.MCP funding ended last September. Yet rather than wither without federal dollars, the movement to mentor children of the incarcerated shows new signs of vitality and religiosity. Churches such as New Hope, which joined the movement without seeking federal funds, are growing robustly religious mentoring programs. Mentors trained under MCP are embracing new freedom to talk about their Christian faith with their mentees.”Theres an extra level of excitement for a mentor when the door is opened to faith conversations” with a mentee, says Jeff Dorn, former director of the Assemblies of Gods MCP-funded program in Springfield, Missouri. “Having mentors know up front that [sharing faith] can be part of the program adds incentive for them to volunteer and assists with longevity.”MCP was a Bush administration faith-based initiative that paid to recruit and train volunteer mentors, who typically came from churches. Many felt inspired to work with kids living in chronic poverty with little stable adult influence in their lives.At Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Triangle in Raleigh, North Carolina, some 90 percent of MCP-supported mentors are Christians who see mentoring as mission. Chief executive Kim Breeden said many mentors continue despite the funding cut. “We have children who go to church and to Bible study with their [mentors],” Breeden says. “The parents are very supportive of that.”However, not everyone is cheering a surge of faith in mentoring. While religion can be a “shared interest” that facilitates bonding, it can also introduce harmful dynamics if not managed carefully, says Jean Rhodes, director of the Center for Evidence-based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.”Theres the possibility of proselytizing and crossing ethical boundaries,” says Rhodes, who helped launch MCP. “Lets say youre getting into [mentoring] because youre religious. Then you find out the kid isnt, so you try to convert him. We dont want that.”The best mentors arent overly didactic or overly proselytizing. So the mentors who take a faith perspective cant be too heavy-handed about it.”But others insist that exposure to religious faith benefits children. Some programs formerly supported by MCP now prefer mentors with faith convictions. Cornerstone Children in Marrero, Louisiana, offers mentoring for children who ride Catholic Charities buses to visit their parents at Angola and other state prisons.

via When Dad Is in Prison | Christianity Today.

Northwest Herald | Imprisoned hearts: Families of those serving time are crime’s forgotten victims

Kassie Kennedy remembers the first time she visited her fiancé, Jason Gedzyk, at the Taylorville Correctional Center.

She made the 250-mile drive down to the minimum security prison in Taylorville, with Gedzyk’s mother, Judy, of Crystal Lake.

It was a busy day at the prison, so the pair had to park far away from the visitors’ entrance and run through a full-on central Illinois summer downpour to reach the doors.

At that time, in September 2008, the two had very limited knowledge of what it would take to actually get inside to see Jason, but they hadn’t laid eyes on him since the day he was sentenced.

About six weeks earlier, a McHenry County Circuit Court judge sentenced the then 27-year-old to six years in the Illinois Department of Corrections on an aggravated driving under the influence conviction.

The accident was covered by local media outlets, and the story of the victim and his family was told.

What was not covered was the story of what happened to Gedzyk’s family after the gavel hit the sounding block.

The sadness, guilt, depression and shame felt by Gedzyk’s mother, sister and fiancée.

The hundreds of dollars a month that would be required by the family from then on to maintain ties with Jason and support him while he was away.

The stigmatization that comes with being related to someone who is incarcerated.

The day Jason Gedzyk was sentenced, in many ways, his family was sentenced, too. And they, like the hundreds of other innocent people living in McHenry County who have a loved one in prison, pay for the crimes of those loved ones, in some way or another, every single day.

During January and February, the Northwest Herald spent time interviewing two Department of Corrections inmates who once called McHenry County home, and several families who have a loved one who is behind bars.

On Aug. 13, 2006, Gedzyk drove home from a going-away party his friends had thrown him at a local bar. He had earned a job as a bartender on a cruise ship and was due to leave the next day.

via Northwest Herald | Imprisoned hearts: Families of those serving time are crime’s forgotten victims.

Prison Visits Make Inmates Less Likely To Commit Crimes After Release, Study Finds

December 7, 2011

Huffington Post, John Rudolf

Just a single visit from a family member or a friend can make a big difference in whether or not a prisoner ends up back behind bars after their release, a new study finds.

The study, by researchers with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, determined that prisoners who received at least one personal visit at any time during their incarceration were 13 percent less likely to commit another felony and 25 percent less likely to end up back in prison on a technical parole violation.  Read the whole story here.

Respite and Solace for Prisoners and their Families

Meredith Egan, Quaker Concern

Winter 2009

Springhill, Nova Scotia is wellknown as the home of icon Anne Murray; a productive source of geothermal heat (extracted from the abandoned coal mines), and Springhill Institution. On the outskirts of the town on the way to Springhill Institution is a home called “Spring House”. When you enter the back door, a sense of quiet calm, of welcome and safety pervade. In summer 2007, Vince Zelazny, John McKendy (both of New Brunswick MM) and myself visited Spring House where we shared a meal with Sr. Christina Doyle. We conversed about the house, St. Luke’s Renewal Centre inside the walls of Springhill Institution, and fundraisers held in snowy February in PEI.

In the early 1980s, Judy and Rev. Pierre Allard and Rev. Dr. Charles Taylor dreamed into being the
Christian Council for reconciliation (CCR). This charitable organization is responsible for running both St. Luke’s, and Spring House; Quakers Fostering Justice (QFJ) offers small annual grants to support this important work. The relationship between our organizations is nurtured carefully and is meaningful to us.

Spring House offers hospitality for families and friends of prisoners while visiting Springhill Institution. Because this prison, like many others, is in a fairly rural community, services for families are sparse and expensive. Often friends and families must travel long distances to maintain contact with those who are incarcerated; Spring House is often described by guests as “a home away from home”. It was staffed by the Sisters of St. Martha of Prince Edward Island until the recent retirement of Sr. Christina; currently the role of hostess has been taken up by Millie Munn, a volunteer with CCR. She and her husband, Walter, offer both spiritual nourishment and hospitality to all who visit.

St. Luke’s Renewal Centre is unique in Canada in that it is a spiritual retreat house maintained within the walls of a federal prison. Springhill Institution is a medium security prison with a rated capacity of 450 men. The Renewal Centre has six bedrooms and can accommodate up to five inmates for overnight programs. A wheelchair accessible washroom and ramp make the centre completely barrier-free.

The most popular room in the centre is the meditation room–an all glass room looking out over the hills of Cumberland County. The room is furnished with a very comfortable easychair, positioned so one can sit in the chair and gaze over the fence at the hills. Men speak of finding freedom for their spirit to imagine a new way of being.

Programs are offered to prisoners in a setting where there is quietness, opportunity for reflection, and meaningful conversations with the Facilitator and resource people. There is also opportunity for reading and watching resource materials–and even cooking a meal. This “time away” is especially important for long-term prisoners as it allows them to remove themselves from the routine of the Institution for brief periods of time. In effect, it encourages the participant to step outside of the prison environment and outside of the prison persona he may have become. This enables contemplation–similar to the vision early Quakers had for prisons when they advocated for prison reform.

In this time, when the current Canadian government is encouraging more punitive measures in prison, it is an honour to support this important resource with its unique spiritual work. We hope this is a model for spiritual support that can be spread across Canada.

Meredith Egan is the
Programme Coordinator for
Quakers Fostering Justice, and a member of Vancouver MM.

Much material for this article was cultivated from CCR’s Executive Director
Peter Hoar, and their website, <>