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Men’s Health Fair at Warkworth Penitentiary

A report from a volunteer on our participation in the Men’s Health Fair at Warkworth Institution.

Warkworth Medium Institution : Health Fair Fall 2018

Being screened was fairly quick because staff avoided the usual swab test and line up with the dog for normal visitors. There were two guards processing us and a couple of others escorting us to the gym (One male at the Desk and the rest were females) The gym had a few guards walking about.

Once we got processed and set up, at least 200 inmates passed through. Probably more. We engaged in conversation as they walked past, talking to them about Canadian Men and Families, the resources CCMF offered and we handed them pamphlets. Few inmates refused taking material. Many appreciated what we had to say. One guy actually looked up and shouted Hallelujah after I told them something as simple and sweet as CCMF stands in the gap on men’s issues. Another man was more quiet but his face lit up and smiled after I said what CCMF stand for. Some men asked us more questions and others continued in conversation and answered some questions we had of them about prison.

We emphasized the gap we were trying to fill for men suffering from domestic violence or abuse, help to obtain access to their children, resources for legal help and so on.

I personally do not know all the statistics on men in prison compared to women but I suspect there is a real disconnect. If a woman is in prison it means she had a rotten child hood, was sexually abused and hung out with the wrong crowd. If a man is in prison, it is because he is just “Bad”

It is never perfect but what I found the most striking was the fact that there was a lot of “processing” of men going on and not enough healing. Another inmate qualified that men in the system were sexually abused and for him, the realization of this type of pain came when he turned 40. He received therapy which was very successful for him. I could tell by his face, he had recovered but with others, their countenance was more strained.

One inmate didn’t talk about his process but was rather interested in any indigenous services CCMF offered. I told him there was a presentation on healing by an indigenous man at one of the Healing Journey conferences and he said that was more his style.

I was happy to see a female P.O. gathering as much material as she could for her “clients”, including the article on Indigenous men not included in the inquiry focused more on Indigenous women. She emphasized more resources are needed. A  staff approached Justin and invited CCMF to come back but in a “Group Format”

Other conversations we had was with an internal group run by inmates and Chaplaincy which was focused on the sort of thing that is so essential for all men there: Healing

The inmate representative was very excited and eager to put in a report to the Warden asking CCMF to return to conduct a workshop. I asked what this would look like to be of greatest help to them and he simply said a circle of sharing and talking, so essentially, a healing circle. The Chaplin felt the same way but he emphasized one of the greatest immediate needs was transportation for visitors who have no transportation to visit. Men especially miss their children.

Three men at Warkworth (one staff, a Chaplin and an inmate who leads a group) invited CCMF to return with the intention of some sort of workshop and after many conversations with inmates there, I believe a healing workshop would be very beneficial.

It was a good day for the men and for us.