Prison Chaplaincy 2014 – Cowansville Institution
08 Nov, 2014
Following another time of uncertainty (and no salary) at the beginning of April 2014, I was hired again as a chaplain at the men’s medium security prison in Cowansville. While new prison blocks go up and a new building for the Administration has been built, services for inmates continue to decline. We are close to 700 inmates now.
This current federal government values punishment over rehabilitation as they put more money and energy into building projects and then announce cuts in areas of staffing and programming which might assist inmates in their rehabilitation and restoration. When you take away hope and focus on the warehousing of people, you make both prisons and the streets unsafe.
My weekly schedule is like this:
On Mondays I meet with the men individually to listen to their complaints, their hopes for themselves, the process of rehabilitation, and their frustrations about the roadblocks they face along the way to their release. I visit those who are in Detention, the place where you are locked up for 23 hours a day.
On Monday evenings, I welcome in volunteers from various churches in the local area as well as Montreal, for an evening of singing, praying and reflecting on a biblical
passage together. For the men, the presence of volunteers is a sign of hope that they have not been forgotten and have not been written off, but are capable of redemption and love.
Twice a month, on a Monday afternoon, I meet with the Impact Group, a group of twelve men (English-speaking) serving long sentences inside prison. Together we hear each other’s stories, offering support and accountability to each other. Sometimes guest speakers are invited to address the group.
On Fridays, twice a month, I welcome volunteers from Yamaska Literacy who assist Anglophone, Francophone and Spanish speaking people to read and write more fluently in English. We have prisoners who are tutors as well as students in this literacy program. We have recently started a book club for the more literate men reading and discussing many bestsellers. Yamaska Literacy gave a $500 budget for buying books.
This past year, with the assistance of volunteers from Sac à Mots in Cowansville, we have established a tutoring program in French. Many English inmates appreciate being able to have one-on-one tutoring in French.
We ask for your prayers and thank-you for your presence among those who are ‘outcasts and sinners’. If any of you would like to volunteer at the prison, please be in touch with me.