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LETTER: Prisoners are people, too

Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's. — Glen Whiffen/The Telegram
Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's. — Glen Whiffen/The Telegram

Here’s a quote from a Feb. 14, 2019 letter to the editor: “(Her Majesty’s Penitentiary) is an embarrassing warehouse… nothing more!”

Sometime in 2016-17, I wrote a letter to the editor myself, which said, “HMP — the Queen would be embarrassed!”

But nobody listens, we’re all criminals. Throw away the key.

Well, look at HMP now. There was recently a hunger strike by inmates there, but I doubt if it continues, since all there is in that medieval holding place for the accused to look forward to is meals, and your release date.

I’ve been there. In fact, I’ve been there and spent time in most penitentiaries in this country because of my wrongdoings.

Fresh air is a basic human need. Apparently, the inmates at HMP have been cut back to spending time in the yard/getting fresh air once a week, because of “staffing issues.”

Fresh air is a basic human need. Apparently, the inmates at HMP have been cut back to spending time in the yard/getting fresh air once a week, because of “staffing issues.”

Four years ago, when I was there, I managed to see the warden in the gym and speak about the minimal yard time. He was giving a tour to some suits. He blew me off, like I was a dead bug on the windshield of a vintage vehicle. I did see compassion at HMP from about 85 per cent of the correctional officers there, though. The other 15 per cent didn’t give a damn. It’s a job, a paycheque; that’s my experience. And I’m not talking out of my rear end.

I’ve spent 18 years of my adult life in prisons and penitentiaries in Canada. If not for concern, compassion and empathy from correctional officers in those institutions, I’d still be caught up in the CSC (Correctional Service of Canada). However, because of some guards who could justify my life and mistakes, I felt compelled to change. I had one correctional officer sit in on a parole hearing. After I was granted full parole, she gave me a hug in front of the full parole board. After that moment, I felt human. I felt normal. It was perhaps the best moment of my life.

Either way, I’ll not soon forget it or her.

On a final note: we who make mistakes, bad judgments, by way of addictions, anger or mental health issues, should be helped, not hindered for the greater good.

Michael Ince,
St. John’s


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