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.


Thinking Outside the Criminal Justice Box: Exploring Alternative Models of Justice – Prisoners’ Families and Friends Service

Thinking Outside the Criminal Justice Box: Exploring Alternative Models of Justice

Sarah Lamble, Lecturer in Law, Birkbeck College, 15 May 2012

The latest addition to our programme of continued professional development evenings is a talk by Sarah Lamble, Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck College, on Tuesday 15 May 2012 at 6.30pm. Refreshments will be available.

The title of her talk is “Thinking Outside the Criminal Justice Box: Exploring Alternative Models of Justice”.

Sarah completed a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies at the University of Trent, Canada, a Masters in Criminology at the University of Toronto, and a PhD in Law at the University of Kent, Canterbury. Sarah has taught courses in politics, law, criminal justice and gender and sexuality studies and has published articles on a range of topics including: community responses to violence, welfare and penal policy, and social movements struggles around imprisonment. Sarah has more than 10 years experience as a community organizer on issues of poverty, imprisonment and violence prevention work in the Canadian and UK contexts.

The venue for the evening is our office at 20 Trinity Street, London SE1. The event is free to our volunteers and prisoners’ families. Others are welcome, but a charge of £5 applies.

(Published 6 March)

via Thinking Outside the Criminal Justice Box: Exploring Alternative Models of Justice – Prisoners’ Families and Friends Service.

CBC: The Current Bill C-10 & Restorative Justice

This morning, retired judge Barry Stuart (served in the Yukon, now is affiliated with the Restorative Justice program at Simon Fraser – ( was interviewed on The Current. The topic was Bill C-10. He apparently was the first judge (in the Yukon or maybe Canada as a whole – not sure) to introduce sentencing circles into court proceedings.

You can hear the interview here:   (It’s a very powerful interview. He pulls no punches about how the criminal justice system – especially the courts and prisons – fails everyone – and how what Bill C-10 proposes to do will only make things worse.)

The Ultimate Outsider

The United Church Observer, November 2011

By Will Braun

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbour, but what if he’s a pedophile?”

As part of my probation conditions, I have to stay away from places where there are families,” says Joe Patterson, “so that made finding a church hard.”  It didn’t help that when he was released from prison, a local newspaper printed a full-page photo of Patterson along with his record of sexual offences against minors. The comment sections of news websites teemed with vitriol at the report of his re-entry into society.

Sitting at the kitchen table of his modest Winnipeg apartment, Patterson speaks without pretension, like someone who does not take for granted a second chance at life. His partner — who attends a United Church… read the whole story here.

Out of the Box

Sara Jewell, United Church Observer

January 2009

A New Brunswick congregation proves that a little creative thinking can lead to new energy and hope

The man with the face of the devil tattooed on the back of his skull sits in a comfortable chair in the church’s main parlour and laughs. A big man with a beard laughs with him. A woman wearing a hot pink suit places a hand on his shoulder. The tattooed man, named Derrick, does not himself have the face of the devil himself. He is smiling, his posture completely relaxed. You wouldn’t guess that at the medium-security prison in Springhill, N.S., the 46-year-old is known as a “lifer” — but one with a growing hope of parole.

Enter Carol Smith. She is the facilitator of St. Luke’s Renewal Centre, a restorative justice organization that operates from a separate building on the grounds of the Springhill Institution. Last year, Smith took a close look at Escorted Temporary Absences — accompanied day trips that are sometimes required by inmates up for parole — and realized many of them don’t have friends or family nearby to help facilitate these outings. She created a pilot project called Community Accompaniment for the Reintegration Process (CARP). “[Inmates] need meaningful contact to help them see what the outside world is like because life inside the institution is very different,” Smith says. “This program gives them a place to go and meet people who will help them interact with others in a healthy, positive way.”

Derrick and Sackville United in nearby New Brunswick soon became the first participants in this new program.

Rev. Jane Doull recalls receiving Smith’s request last spring. “Derrick is coming up for parole, and he needed to have some Escorted Temporary Absences, but he doesn’t have family around to spend time with,” Doull explains. “Carol asked if we’d be open to forming a group that would do that, to be like a family or support system.”

Doull then approached Sackville United’s Council, wondering if anyone would be interested in participating in a series of meetings with a longtime inmate of the nearby prison. The response from four people was immediate and enthusiastic. “Everybody needs somebody to support them, and I knew this was a safe way to do it because it was Jane, the minister, who asked,” says Beth Briscoe, one of the four members of Derrick’s church-based support group.

The first time Briscoe met Derrick, she hugged him. “I wanted him to know that there are people who are there for him, because for him to be where he is, there are a lot of people who haven’t been there for him.”

Derrick admits he was nervous the first time he met the group because of what he feared. “Rejection,” he says. “That they wouldn’t take to me. That they would be afraid of me.”

No particular expertise is required of Derrick’s CARP team; the program simply requires them to accompany him once a month on various outings around town. They go to the coffee shop, to the art gallery, out for lunch or shopping. “We’re not here to be experts, to tell him what to do,” Doull explains. “This is very much letting him take the initiative and letting him have experiences.”

According to Doull, the group is valuable because it offers a kind of normality. “Because we’re not in the correctional system, we can relate to him in a different way.”

For group member Bob Gray, the fact that Derrick is “trusted enough to come here unescorted is very profound for me. The price has been paid to society, and this man earns every chance he gets. So if we have helped give him that chance, then we will have accomplished everything we were expected to.”

For Derrick, the experience of meeting people outside of prison — without a guard at his side — is life-changing. “The administration is more at ease with me now knowing that I’ve been successful; they had their reservations about how I was going to respond. In the past, their response was ‘Church? You’ve got to be kidding me’ because they’re used to seeing only one side of me.”

He even talks to his buddies back in the unit about his experience. “I tell those guys, these people just want to help you. They don’t want to judge you, they don’t sit you on a chair and prod you and induce answers. They assure you there’s more to life than sitting in a prison cell thinking about your next crime.”

Read more stories about out-of-the-box churches in the print edition of The Observer.

Visiting Jesus in Jail
Blog of the Moderator of the United Church of Canada
Posted on: 09/23/2008 15:29
Visiting Jesus in Jail

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lloyd Bruce, the Protestant Chaplain at Springhill Institution in Nova Scotia was waiting for us at security. Nearly a year ago, I met Lloyd in Wallace, N.S. He gave me a delicate little wooden cross on a silver chain and invited me to visit Springhill. Last week, along with a few others, I did.

Springhill is a medium security institution. Most of the inmates are serving lengthy sentences up to and including life. Like most prisons in Canada Springhill is stretched well beyond the inmate population capacity for which it was built. The primary building materials are concrete and rebar. The colourless paint is chipped and ancient. It was built in the town of Springhill as an economic boost after the mine closed there in the late 1950s.

We emptied our pockets into a locker. Signed in. Passed through the metal detector and then two sets of electric barred doors.

We visited “St Luke’s” a retreat house built within the walls of the prison with volunteer and church support. It is an oasis in the midst of a desert of hostility and stress. Inmates, deemed sufficiently trustworthy, can come to the retreat house for a day or several days to rest, meditate or join in programs.

Next we made our way to the chapel. It bears little resemblance to the east-coast white-board churches beyond the walls but it too is clearly a sanctuary amidst the grind of prison life. There were about 30 inmates and volunteers seated in a circle. Chairs were quickly added so our group could join. I chose a seat beside one of the roughest looking characters in the room. A big guy, bandana, 3-day-beard, earring, tattoos. Turns out he’s a preacher and volunteer.

The “Kairos Marathon” was underway. The program has been around since the mid 1960s. Kairos means something like “an opportune time and/or place” ““ God’s time and place. The Marathon refers to the 26 hours straight the program lasts. Inmates sleep in their cells but otherwise remain in an intense, alternately playful and gut-wrenching, truth-telling circle in chapel.

“It’s like this. If you pick up the ball it means you are going to talk about what is happening in your life.” Turns out it’s a metaphorical ball. We visitors found ourselves scanning the room for it. “The others listen and hold you to the truth.” Some inmates and volunteers come again and again, in search of peace, healing and forgiveness. The young man to my left clutched a pillow to his chest with long bare arms and rocked in his chair.

“Do you want to say or ask anything?” Maybe it was the young guy to my left but the first question that came to mind was, “Is anyone here for the first time?” He raised his hand. So did another younger inmate across the circle. The mix of courage and desperation it must take to get to the Kairos Marathon for the first time humbled me. I told them that. I promised the two first timers that I would be praying for them over the next 26 hours.

I took the chance to tell them about the cross Lloyd had given me and described some of the places it had been since – across Canada, Columbia, Nicaragua. Told them I wanted to thank the man who had made it. Heads turned toward Jeff, a lanky guy with shoulder-length grey hair. He laughed, “It’s been a lot more places than I have.” Before we left the chapel Jeff and I had our picture taken together.

The last stop on our tour was nearby “Spring House” which provides inexpensive accommodation and extravagant hospitality to wives, children, parents and friends who travel to visit husbands, fathers, children and friends at the prison.

Jesus said, “”I was in prison and you visited me.” (Mtt. 25.26b). I felt presence of Christ at the Springhill Institution.

Two stories in the news since then: 1. The “get tough on crime” agend has entered the campaign jargon even though there has been a steady decrease in violent crime in Canada; and 2. In the US an incarceration milestone has been passed ““ 1 in 100 Americans are now in jail.