It’s a new year, out with the old and in with the new. Well, unless perhaps you are like me, and have to scratch your head and query, what’s so new about it? In my little corner of the world here in rural Quebec, life rolls on, or as David Byrne of the Talking Heads sings “same as it ever was.” The natural world that surrounds me, is alive with the change of seasons and the starry skies at night, and the later sundown, (Hooray!) all herald that somewhere on the horizon the sugar shanty’s will be getting ready to tap and the maple sap will flow. Wishful thinking on my part. It’s what I’m rolling with right now. In the first week of January, visitors to the medium-security federal prison were permitted to resume our Monday evening gatherings. As bad luck would have it, on that first night back after so many months ( 22 months give or take) Mother Nature threw us a massive curve ball and delivered, with her usual fury, high winds, and rain so intense, walking from the car park to the Keepers Hall was like going through a car wash with the car windows open.We got through security, and set up the Chapel with a circle of chairs, in anticipation of meeting with the Chapel regulars whom we have missed. Outside the storm raged on, so much rain and wind in fact, that the security cameras around the perimeter of the prison had become disabled, and the evening was cancelled before it had even begun. The next week we returned, with high hopes that we could finally be together for an evening of fellowship. The usual Monday night crew came out, and it felt as though we had never left. It was a strange feeling to walk back into a space that we walked out of 22 months before. The virus had another thing to throw at us though, and all visitors and activities have been suspended at our local prison due to the rising cases of the new strain of virus. We are back to connecting the outside to the inside via Canada Post. We know prison volunteers bring essential contact with the outside world for those incarcerated. For the time being, the Chapel programme is suspended, as is the literacy group, and the book club for inmates. I would like to mention here Professor Justin Piche, from the criminology department at Ottawa U. I have heard him speaking on CBC radio on more than one occasion, on behalf of inmates in this time of pandemic. He is a voice we need to be listening to. I would also like to bring to your attention a group in Montreal known as Communitas. They have published a collection of interviews in celebration of the 20 year anniversary of one of their projects known as the “Open Door.” The book is called Open Door. From The Inside Out. Both Bonnie Weppler and I are included in this collection. The work of Communitas serves the community of newly released inmates, who are met and supported by volunteers as they transition back into life in the community. The book is a testament to what can be done when the principals of restorative justice guide our steps, and volunteers from all quarters manifest its value to the community. There is homework for us in the coming year. To amplify the value of restorative justice in our society, and to listen and learn from those who are already ahead of us on that path.
Happy New Year to you all Pam Dillon. President CCJC