……..and the least mistake, no matter how innocuous, sends you back with an enhanced sentence as a recidivist.”  CONRAD BLACK’S  articles should come with built in dictionaries, because standard dictionaries can’t keep up with his never seen before words.  But when he writes about prisons I like to read the entire essay.  Prison enriched his life, and though I prefer to learn living outside the coiled wire, there is no doubt at all, that prison has enriched my life, far more than I have been able to give back into the system.

Black is a giant of a man, not just intellectually but in his genuine compassion and friendship with fellow inmates.  No attempt here to elevate myself to that pillar but spending time at Fraser Valley Institution has blessed my life.   Prior to beginning there as a volunteer I know I would have considered it accurate and complimentary to be called, Fundamentalist, Red-neck, Hard-nosed, Do the crime, do the time sort of person.  But I was only going inside the compound to help set up a community garden, something I could do with genuine enthusiasm.

I surprised myself when I agreed to be a citizen escort, but am I ever glad I did accept that offer.  In no time those outings became the highlight of the week for me.  But here’s where I dare to compare myself to Conrad Black,…..It was only when I had the privilege of teaching guitar on Saturday mornings that the volunteer time became something I could hardly wait for.  I’m a pretty poor guitarist myself, but do know how to open the door for others.  So in a few short weeks two of my beginner students were every bit as proficient as me.

One of those women has written dozens of songs.  Some of them are really quality words and music, and upon her release this young woman will make a name for herself in the world of music.

But Conrad Black’s articles direct us to the dreadful prospect of privatization of the prison system.  FVI works to bring physical, mental, social and educational help and healing to the women caught by the circumstances of their lives.  Having listened to the stories of hundreds of women, in the context of their AA, NA, GA and similar groups, or as we quietly drive to and from their meetings, one thing is certain, many, many women are in prison because they were sexually wounded early in their lives.

May it never come to pass that Canada turns the lives of these precious women and men over to BIG BUSINESS, as has been done in the U.S. prison system.