Friday, June 20, 2008

Going Where Few Have Gone Before – Inside KP

Standing in the central section of the Cell Block is an eerie feeling. The metal mesh rises to the dome ceiling about four stories above me. The meshed area is circular, with the stairways rising on each side, is the control spot for this large prison block.

Behind the mesh is the different walk ways that bring men from the ranges that they live on. The walls show evidence of a very old structure. In fact the structure is 133 years old – designed and built 8 years after Canada became a country.

I am standing in the heart of Kingston Penitentiary, one of maximum security prisons in Canada and definitely the oldest. When I climbed out of bed in the morning – this was the last place I ever thought I would be this particular evening! But as some of the men walked by me and smiled – it was the last place they thought they would ever live as well.

I am standing where thousands of Canadians have lived and walked in the past 133 years. Added to the unwanted that live(d) here… are the amazing men and women that stand quietly for hours maintaining security and propriety. These are the folk that have chosen to work within the Correctional Services Canada – one the most highly trained force outside of Canada’s police forces.

Why am I here?

I serve as a volunteer in our community back home. I am the present chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee in Peterborough, Ontario. The CAC watches over the coming and going of the CSC procedure to offer am outside opinion and eyes of the CSC ministry.

When I arrived in Kingston I was informed of a special meeting that I was invited to attend inside the Kingston Penitentiary walls. The invitation was from the Native Brotherhood that meets on their special plot of ground set aside for them. The land is surrounded with a high link fence. There is a Teepee and a small structure for sweats... plus walkways in the shape of the four directions of West, East, North and South.

As we entered the Teepee with the 20 plus men it was a great honor to listen to their conversation and take part in their small ceremony. Together we enjoyed the fellowship of each other. I learned so much and appreciate the men that I met.

When we exited and were leaving the chain linked compound we all headed for the many locked doors to either go back to a Cell Block or through the Cell Blocks to the outside.

For an hour of so we had enjoyed each other’s company and experienced some powerful interaction in that large Teepee – a world away from the lock downs, the clang of locks and doors, and the world of incarceration in one Canada’s maximum security prisons.

At the end of the evening I had collected some new potential long life friends.

While in the circle inside the Teepee I shared of the wonderful work that Peterborough’s Community Chaplaincy is doing with Compassionate Parole – receiving men from places like the Cell Block I stood in earlier.

There was one man that asked for more answers and addresses – he has cancer as well and is dieing. He asked, “Do you think they would consider me?” I had no answer for him but promised that there is a new system rising to allow men like himself to die outside of Hell.

I have been invited back. What an honour to be one of them. God has plans for me. How about you?

Like the old words of the fanciful game “Monopoly” – “Go directly to Jail – do not pass Go and do not collect $200”. I have been there…

~ Murray Lincoln ~

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