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25 Days Left

Sorry I haven’t updated my blog in a while.

Basically, nothing has really happened. Life is moving slowly.. some days I’m feeling great and others I don’t want to get out of bed. They are still finding more ways to mess with Girr, of course. He was moved to a different range a few weeks ago, and all of his belongings (books, photos, letters, etc.) were taken away. He wasn’t given a reason, but it seems pretty obvious why… just not information he wants me sharing on here.

When he was first moved his cell mate was heavily schizophrenic with a fear of certain people who he calls “entities.” Fortunately, Girr managed to convince him that he is not an entity, with the help of his pointy ears, as entities don’t have pointy ears, elves do, and elves are good. Though the story may seem somewhat comical it must have been pretty terrifying for him to fall asleep locked in a cell with a stranger who was so mentally unstable. I know I found it hard to sleep at night just thinking about it.

Yesterday his mother and I went to visit him. While we were waiting for them to bring him up I realized that from one place in the visiting room I could see him sitting and playing cards on his range. I was trying to wave and get his attention, but I managed to get the attention of pretty much everyone else, just not Girr and the men he was playing cards with. They were waving and smiling at me, and it felt really nice to be brightening their day, if even for a moment. A few guys were dancing and taking off their shirts, and we were blowing kisses at each other. Then they finally asked Girr to come up for his visit, and he laughed when I told him what I was doing. Once our visit was over his mom and I decided to wait in that spot for a bit so that we could wave to him when he walked back onto the range. We had about ten or fifteen people crowded around the range window smiling and laughing with us. A few were motioning for us to flash them but we didn’t, of course. Then a voice came over the intercom system asking us to leave because our visit was over. She mentioned that there’s a chance we wont be able to return to visits but I don’t think we’re officially banned… I hope not, I guess I’ll find out tonight when I go to see him. Then when I talked to him this morning about it, he said that one of the guards was trying really hard to convince him to beat up the guys who were stripping for me. The guard also lied and said I flashed them, but Girr was smart enough not to believe him. Of course Girr didn’t take the bait, and was not upset with the other guys because he knew we were just having fun and being silly. But that is just a great example of the role that guards play in jail.

Anyways, that’s pretty much all I have to say. 25 days left. I hope to see you all at Girr’s welcome home party, it should be an amazing night. And it’s outside, so I’m not worried about numbers, the more the better. I’m just not posting the location on heavily surveyed internet spaces such as facebook or wordpress… for obvious reasons. So just ask around and someone will let you know :).

Solidarity, love and rage.

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Worst Day, Best Moment

I think today has been the worst day since February 3rd.

Parole hearing… Judgement day… again.

You get to sit in front of two middle aged white men who have never met you. They’ve read your report. They know the “facts”. They get to decide whether it’s safe for you to return to your community, or if you are still a threat to society.

Apparently, Girr is still a threat. Apparently, he clearly has something psychologically wrong with him that would cause him to break that window, and he hasn’t come to terms with it. Can he attend counselling to learn what this apparent flaw is? No, of course not. That would just make sense. No counselling available for someone in maximum security in the Maplehurst Detention Centre. That would only be possible if he were either granted parole or transferred to the Correctional Centre (working range) but they wouldn’t want to do that because of his “affiliations”. What ever the fuck that means.

During the hearing we were allowed to sit beside each other but strictly forbidden from touching each other, so I couldn’t even hold his hand while he was psycho analyzed by some power hungry ass hole with zero psychological training. I hope he could feel the love I was sending him.

When we left the room for the parole board to make their decision, I asked the guard escorting him into the holding cell if we could hug. She hesitated, because we aren’t supposed to, but said it was okay anyways. As soon as the word yes crossed her lips I pretty much tackled him. I don’t know how long we stood there, holding each other for the first time since February 3rd. I was crying and he was telling me he loves me. Time froze. Though the day as a whole has been awful, that’s the best I’ve felt in two and a half months.

Anyways.. that’s pretty much it.

47 days to go.

I love you Girr.

Love, rage, and solidarity.

Kept in Limbo

For the last fifteen days, I’ve known that there is a chance that Girr could be home within a weeks time. His parole release date was originally supposed to be April 3rd, meaning that if his parole hearing had happened on time and he had been granted parole he would have been home nine days ago. However, his parole hearing still hasn’t happened. His parole hearing still hasn’t even been scheduled.

Partially this gives me hope, as I feel like there would be less reason for them to drag this out if he wasn’t likely to be granted parole. Part of me is clinging on to the possibility of his early release, but the other part is pushing it away, far out of my reach, so I don’t hold on to that little thread of hope that made the reality of him going to jail in the first place so much worse.

I’ve been asked to set up a home phone line because if he is granted parole he will be under electronic surveillance. The phone line has to be through Rogers or Bell (hmm, think they might give the system a little bit of money? gah.). A guy from Rogers will be here any moment to set it up for me.

In my crime and criminal justice class we were discussing how “some people” criticize the privatization of prisons because “it could be considered morally wrong to imprison people for financial profit”. It could be? Really? There are people who DON’T think that’s morally wrong?

My whole body aches, all the time. Still. I’m angry, all the time. I wish I could just spend my time sleeping for the chance that I’ll see him there.

I  think it’s really important to remember that Greg is nothing close to the only one in his position. It’s not like he’s in a jail of terrible evil people who are a real threat to society and he’s the one good guy. He’s not the only person the government has decided would be better off stripped of his basic human rights and locked in a cell where he can’t see the sun, as a punishment for doing something as trivial as breaking a window. Most people in jail aren’t sexual predators and killers like we are led to believe. Most of them are regular people, like you, or me, or your son or daughter, mother or father, who may have broken a law. I stress may, as I discussed in my last post, more than half of the people imprisoned in Canada have not yet faced trial.

As everyone knows, there are a set of rules laid out in our country explaining the norms of our society, exactly what we are and are not allowed to do, explaining what is right, and what is wrong. As you also know, if you deviate from these norms, there are a group of people who are going to come and let you know. They will come to your home, heavily armed, and wearing modern armor.  They will bind your wrists and force you to get in to their car. They will steal your personal belongings as “evidence”. They will drive away with you, and bring you to a building with more of these armed individuals. They will lock you in a cell. If you’re lucky, some one will be able to pay lots of money to get you out of this cell. If not, you might be staying there for a few years before actually facing trial.

Eventually, it will be time for your sentencing. Judgement day. As anyone who has attended a hearing will know, the court system is fairly impenetrable. Unless you are highly educated in the legal field, it will be hard to understand what the hell is going on. Until they read your sentence.

When the judge read Girr’s sentence, it was absolutely awful. He dragged it on, and on, and on, going over every detail of his case. He then agreed that, in terms of individual deterrence, jail time was clearly not necessary. My heart lifted. In terms of rehabilitation, he continued, jail time was clearly not necessary. I breath a sigh of relief. Then, the dreaded word… “however…” My heart plummets. “We must speak to general deterrence and denunciation.  General deterrence is important because he clearly has influence over the youth as a youth worker. Denunciation is important because the general Canadian public are so ashamed of what happened that day, and want people like Mr. Noltie-Rowley to go to jail for it.” Bam, three months jail time for the first charge,  masked with intent. A tear fell across my cheek and I grasped a tighter hold onto Devyn and Trish’s hands. Three months for the second charge, public nuisance. I can’t breath. And three months for his third charge, mischief under $5000. I hear nothing after this. My ears are ringing. Devyn is holding me. I see his mother crying, I see his friends crying. I see the police officers handcuff him and walk him out of the courtroom. Everything is a blur. People are comforting me. I push them away, and quickly walk out of the courtroom. I fall to the floor and wrap my arms tightly around my legs, incapable of taking in what has just happened.

Sentencing. Yeah… judgement day. I found out later that after being led out of the courtroom Girr heard the court officials mocking me for my emotion.

I don’t blame them, really, though. Imagine seeing that courtroom full of devastated people, so anguished with the sorrow of you locking away their friend. Their friend, who hasn’t harmed anyone. Who is an active member of the community. Who is so clearly loved. But you need to believe you are working for the good guys. You are protecting society by locking up this twenty one year old boy. You can’t accept the distraught emotions you are witnessing as genuine. Instead, you turn them into a joke, so that you can lay down and go to sleep at night.

I wonder if it works.

I was just reflecting on all of the things I’m upset about with regards to Girr’s incarceration, other than the fact that, you know, he’s in jail… and realized how ignorant I feel for how extremely limited my knowledge was about the life someone who has been imprisoned by the Canadian state until the love of my life started experiencing it.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m some vault of information now, because I’m definitely not, but I have learned a huge amount over the last few months. I’ve already mentioned a few of these things in previous posts but I’d just like to make an outline of what I’ve learned about the reality of Canadian provincial jails, starting out by clearing up a few myths.

Myth: If you request to see a doctor or a nurse, you will be able to do so.

It would definitely be untrue to claim that this is never possible, as Girr in fact did talk to a nurse while he was at Penatang. However, since shortly after arriving at Maplehurst he has been requesting to see a nurse (for apparent reason, not just because he feels like it…) and has been unable to do so. It has been almost a month.

Myth: You are given clean clothing to wear.

At Penatang and the Don, inmates are provided with clean jumpsuits twice a week. At Maplehurst, however, you have to ask a guard to provide a clean jumpsuit when you need one. Which means of course that if the guard decides for what ever reason he doesn’t want you to have one… you don’t get one. Girr has requested a clean jumpsuit multiple times and is still wearing the one from when he first got there. On top of that, all of the inmates are only provided with two pairs of boxers and two pairs of socks every week. I’m pretty sure it’s a fairly standard social norm to change your socks and underwear everyday… but apparently in jail this is not necessary.

Myth: You can send books and magazines to jail.

Okay, you can send them, but not just by sticking them in an envelope and sending them off. All books and magazines must be sent directly from the publisher, which of course means buying them new and paying their shipping costs. For a little while at Maplehurst a few guards were allowing books and magazines in, but they’ve recently all been reminded that this is not acceptable and are no longer doing so.

Myth: In Canada, you are considered innocent until proven guilty.

Maplehurst is separated into two halves: the detention centre, or DC, and the correctional centre, or CC. The DC is supposed to be for inmates who have not yet been sentenced, and the CC for inmates who have already been sentenced.  I’m under the impression (but may be incorrect) that it is normal for people to stay on the DC side for a short amount of time before being transferred to CC, but for whatever reason Girr is still in the DC. Of the people on his range, only a very small amount have actually been found guilty of committing the crime that they are being incarcerated for, if they have been convicted of a crime at all. I just did a bit of research and apparently in 2005 approximately half of every person in Canada who was imprisoned was either awaiting trial or had not been convicted of a crime. However this number had increased by 83% from 1995 to 2005, so I feel certain that it’s significantly more than that now.

Myth: You spend a large amount of the time either outside (in that huge field you can see from the highway) or out on the range.

Think about it, if you live near Milton and have driven passed Maplehurst on the 401 have you ever actually seen the inmates outside? I know I haven’t. When Girr’s range is allowed to go outside (at Maplehurst this is a few times a week) they are let out into a small, crowded courtyard. Right, surrounded by more walls. Normally he doesn’t even bother to go outside because it just depresses him, he uses the time to call me instead as it means the range is pretty empty. For 18 hours a day, Girr is locked in his cell with his cellmate. For the other six, in three intervals of two hours, he’s allowed out on the range, where he can shower, make phone calls, play cards, or just walk around.

Myth: There are programs and work opportunities available in jail.

Though Girr doesn’t particularly need any of the programs a jail might offer and doesn’t want to help run the institution that has stolen his freedom, he has expressed willingness to participate in programs or obtain work in jail in order to help the time pass more quickly. However, he has been unable to access any programs at all and the work available is very limited. There are servers, and guys who distribute the mail, and guys who push the book cart, but from what I understand that is pretty much it, and these jobs go to the ones who have been there the longest (understandably). I call these jobs, but I’d just like to clarify, they don’t actually get paid for doing them. They just get little “treats” like candy and stuff. You know, like rewarding a dog for fetching you the morning paper. It’s disgusting.

Myth: There are no children incarcerated in adult Canadian provincial jails.

Kinda seems like a given, eh? Not the case. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, when Girr was at the Don there was a boy there with him who was only fourteen. I’m going to be totally honest, when he first told me that, I automatically assumed that this child had done something absolutely terrible, like the shit you see in horror movies where the kid kills their family while they are all asleep or something, because of course he couldn’t have been tried as an adult if not. That wasn’t the case… I’m going to copy and paste what I wrote about it in the earlier post because the story was fresher in my memory then. “His father was really drunk, and was beating the shit out of his mom. He was going to kill her. So he grabbed a knife, and he stabbed him in the back. He probably saved his mother’s life. He said after he stabbed him his father then attacked him, the knife still protruding from his back.” As he is now 14 and has already been sentenced, I’m guessing he was 12 or 13 when this took place. He essentially saved his mother’s life, and not only was he sentenced as an adult and given jail time but he was sentenced to 8 years jail time.

Myth: If you go to jail you are likely to get raped.

Okay, finally, I’m actually going to say something positive. Well, sort of. I really don’t know much about federal prisons, and I know it’s extremely different in the USA, but people do not get raped in Canadian provincial jails. Though this is of course absolutely fantastic, the reason for it isn’t exactly good. Jails tend to be extensively homophobic, so it was pretty much explained to me that if a guy were to rape someone in jail other inmates would probably end up cutting his dick off because they are so anti-homosexuality. I don’t know if this is an exaggeration, or if in a provincial jail it’s actually more because the vast majority of the inmates are actually good people who don’t think rape is acceptable and would stand up against it if it were to occur, but either way rape really doesn’t take place in provincial jails.

Alright, I’ll probably think of more later, but that’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for reading. Solidarity, love and rage.

 

**Please check out my novel, The Crashes of Waves! Available in print or an ebook for just $3.03! (Preview Available Here) Also available at a discounted price through Amazon.

Running Low

I feel like I’ve almost run out of words to say, almost run out of tears to cry, almost run out of the energy it takes to keep struggling through, almost run out of the patience of waiting for normal life to be restored.

The smallest things are tearing me down, and it takes so much more than normal to make me genuinely smile, even for a moment.

My professor invited a cop to lecture to my crime and criminal justice class this morning. He’s the chief of police of the Wellington OPP… so was in charge of the police who constantly harassed Girr at his mother’s house throughout his parole. He contradicted himself repeatedly, and did a great job of the whole political tactic of talking circles that mean nothing instead of answering challenging questions presented to him.

Then fortunately shortly after class GIrr managed to call me (he hasn’t been able to get the phone very often recently). It was fantastic to hear his voice, as always, but after about ten minutes I heard him say to someone else: “can’t I just finish this call?” Apparently the answer was no, as he then told me he had to go and he’d try to call me later. When I asked if someone was fucking with him he didn’t answer, only said goodbye and sent his love. I don’t know if it was another inmate, or a guard, but whoever it was chopped one of the few conversations we are able to have straight in half.

I feel certain that someone (if not multiple people) is intentionally singling Girr out and trying to make his time in jail as difficult as possible. In addition to being transferred all over the place, it seems that people are fucking with him from all directions. When he first arrived at Maplehurst, a guard spent almost the entire day trying to get him put into permanent segregation because of his microdermals.  It took approximately three weeks for him to receive the canteen that he ordered, when everyone else was getting theirs in less than a week. He asked for a clean jumpsuit shortly after arriving at Maplehurst, as they do not provide clean ones there for you, you have to  request one. He was told “no” with absolutely no explanation. He then recently requested a pair of shorts, which is again a very common request, and was again told simply, “no”. A few weeks ago his mother and I sent applications to attend his parole hearing. Stapled to each of our applications were the police clearance checks that are also required in order to attend. Some how, the officer facilitating his parole hearing received our applications, but not our security clearances. They were STAPLED to the applications. Then, somehow, later that day, she managed to miraculously find the missing pages. He’s also been requesting to see a doctor for over a week now and this hasn’t yet happened. He hasn’t been contacted about his parole since he was at Penatang, so would have no idea of what was going on if it weren’t for me keeping him updated. His parole hearing has been put off to approximately the 10th of April, but they haven’t set a date yet. His parole release date would then be a few days after that, instead of the 3rd of April which marks 1/3 of his sentence and the time parole is supposed to occur. This is because he has a court date scheduled on April 4th, on which he has to appear for a breach of bail that did not actually happen and the crown has already confirmed will be dropped. However the crown will not return any calls or emails to officially confirm this fact.

As if incarceration isn’t bad enough already, let’s keep him completely in the dark, without clean clothes, snacks or stamped envelopes from the canteen, and attempt to prevent his loved ones from attending his parole hearing.

So frustrating.

Girr would also like to let folks know he won’t be writing much until after his parole hearing, as anything he says can and will be used against him.

He can still receive lots of letters though, so please keep writing!

Solidarity, love, and rage.

 

I was just doing a word search titled “The American Way” and couldn’t find 9. Freedom… I don’t think it’s here. hehe.

So we’re on lockdown because there was a fight two ranges over… which sucks because we only get to be on range six hours a day. So far Maplehurst is the most structurally oppressive jail I’ve been to. We get breakfast at 7, lunch at 11 and dinner at 3… Insanity. We line up to get spoons. We eat in our cells. We get a roll (towel, t-shirt, 2 pairs of boxers, 2 pairs of socks) every few days. Jumpers and shorts we have to ask for (which the guards can refuse) and I’m still unclear about the situation with sheets. There’s no in/out of cells, and the guards like turning the tv off a lot.

So I spend most of my range time playing rummy 500 or bid whiz with a guy from Hamilton, a punk rocker, and an older guy from Africa (my bid whiz partner and the range librarian). I’ve also been playing a lot of chess and talking about revolutions and anarchy with one of the servers. My celly says some racist stuff, unintentionally, so we get into some pretty intense/heated debates.

It’s crazy how I have taken something as simple as looking out a window for granted. To look at a tree or watch a squirrel frolic around in a spazzy way. All the windows in all the cells look out at a parking lot, so they’re all frosted over…

Anyways, thank you all for the amazing letters! I’m receiving a bunch that were following me from jail to jail (to jail to jail). And I’ll respond as soon as I get more stamped envelopes in canteen. Because of all the transfers, and this week it just not coming, this will be my fourth week without canteen. 2 letters a week really sucks. But there’s always next week, and parole hearing in two weeks.

– Next Day –

It seems to me that jail is a culture of its own. Between the weird bartering system (peanut butter is worth the most value) and the lack (nonexistence) of privacy (strip searches, cell searches, a very public bathroom) it makes me wonder how anyone doing years could function without this preordained existence. It’s one thing to hear of or meet someone who is institutionalized but it’s another to experience their life. And it must be especially fucked for 18, 19, and 20 year old youth to spend the last years growing up in an environment where the guards never enter without gloves on as if we’re an infectious experiment.

Anyway time for some reading.

– Girr

 

Desensitization

Desensitization is a concept that absolutely terrifies me. I think it’s a really dangerous phenomenon that happens regularly, in different situations. It’s intrinsic to the concept of capitalism in that it’s often a result of being so disconnected from the things around us. Most people are aware that their clothing is the product of child slave labour… but can cope with that fact by distancing themselves from it. Folks are aware of the torture and misery that animals suffer daily in order to provide the meat we purchase in the grocery store.. but most of us purchase it anyway… because it’s something we’ve always done, something we don’t let ourselves think about. We are desensitized to sexism and abuse by the constant adds we view with the reoccurring themes of male dominance and female submission.

Jail is of course a place where an extremely intense amount of desensitization occurs, and this fact worries me greatly. On the outside, most people expect to be given a certain amount of respect and dignity. In jail, this seems to be stripped from you at the moment you step through the doors. Your clothes and belongings are taken away, and you are forced to stand naked in front of strangers – repeatedly squatting to prove there is nothing hidden in your ass. You are handed an orange jumpsuit and given a number. That number is your identity. You no longer have a name. You are no longer a person. You are inmate number 063228.Or whatever.You’re then told when you’re allowed to eat, when you’re allowed to sleep, to shower, to take a shit. Why is this acceptable? You have no choice but to obey, because you’re a “criminal”. You’ve stolen groceries to feed your family. You’ve smoked pot to help you sleep at night. You’ve harmed someone in self defense or defense of a loved one. You’ve broken a piece of glass. You are a criminal, so you deserve to have your dignity stripped from you.

I’m sure at first, this treatment is traumatizing, but eventually, you settle into a routine and become accustomed to your new life. You are desensitized – disconnected from yourself.

And this process is supposed to reduce crime? Make you a “better” person. I’m sorry… but what the fuck. I can’t comprehend how anyone could possibly think jail time would result in this.

As Girr becomes more accustomed to life on the inside I am seeing more and more signs of desensitization, and it terrifies me. When we are on the phone and they start putting his range on lock down he quickly whispers “I love you” and hangs up. Following orders, the moment they are  issued. Girr… following orders.  He’s joking about serious and horrifying crimes other inmates have “allegedly” committed as though they are no big deal.

Fortunately Girr is one of the strongest minded people I have ever met. I know, in my heart, that he’ll go back to being the same person I fell in love with, even if he may be slipping away from that right now. But not everyone is as strong as Girr. What happens to people who go to jail who are more vulnerable to this desensitization? More vulnerable to the desensitization of violence and evil, more vulnerable to the desensitization of power, control, and abuse?

Oh, right, I forgot… they are going  to come out of prison as model citizens who will contribute to society and be far less likely to re-offend. Yeah. Right.

 

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