Healing an open wound

I went to prison last week, but, fortunately, the guards let me out again...

Healing an open wound

I went to prison last week, but, fortunately, the guards let me out again.

I was invited to William Head Institution as a guest of the Restorative Justice Coalition to meet a circle of inmates who want to turn their lives around through open discussion with each other and, in some cases, face-to-face talks with their victims.

Due to privacy concerns and institutional rules, I’m not allowed to discuss details of the prisoners who attend the weekly discussion, but I can say that I observed genuine remorse and pain coming from these men.

William Head is a minimum-security facility in Metchosin, about 25 kilometres west of Victoria. As such, the inmates here are considered low risk to cause trouble within the razor-wire fence. Some of the men I met are serving their time for murder, manslaughter, fraud and sexual assault. Several of them have been incarcerated for several decades already, and the theme of the evening was forgiveness.

The biggest difference between the perpetrator and the victim is that following a serious crime, the victim has to carry that pain while continuing his or her daily life. The criminal’s life, on the other hand, is taken out of his or her control and placed into an institution full of strict rules that leaves lots of time for rumination. Counselling is both encouraged and provided for the inmate, but little thought or healing is given to the victim after the trial is over.

The inmates who sat in this circle represented only one-tenth of the prison’s population (“the brightest 10 per cent” as one inmate told me) but the weight of their crimes was palpable. One lifer talked about how meeting the daughter of his victim, 20 years after the crime, had brought healing to them both; while another’s crime has scarred a family so deeply that victim impact statements still arrive at every parole hearing 28 years after the event.

For the younger inmates, the crime is still an oozing wound that no bandage can cover. It’s up to the victims to open the door to restorative justice, and while I do believe there is strong and worthwhile healing in the process (for both victim and criminal), everyone arrives at that door at their own pace. A truly remorseful prisoner will always be the first one to want that healing, but not every victim will be able to reach that point. For some, it’s an impossibility. But if a victim is ready for some closure, it’s reassuring to know that the incredible volunteers of the Restorative Justice Coalition are there to help.

Quick thanks for the Q

Thank you to everyone who voted in Pride Week’s first Victoria Q Awards and selected Monday as its top queer-friendly media. We couldn’t be happier to be accepted by such a wonderful community and acknowledged for the stand we take to make sure everyone is treated with equal respect and compassion. M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Michael Demers, performing here as a member of The Lonely, died May 1 after a year-long battle with leukemia. (Photo by Benji Duke)
Victoria music community mourning Michael Demers

Veteran singer-songwriter, co-founder of The Lonely dies at 63 due to leukemia

The Royal B.C. Museum has added a tamba dining set, used by a Punjabi man on his voyage to Canada in 1927, to its ‘100 Objects of Interest’ online collection. (Courtesy of Royal B.C. Museum)
Punjabi dining set added to Royal B.C. Museum’s ‘100 Objects of Interest’ collection

Set used by Indar Singh Gill on his voyage from Punjab to Canada in 1927

Victoria-born musician Bryce Dane Soderberg took to Instagram Monday to call out the Greater Victoria School District on its proposed cuts to elementary and middle school music programs. (Bryce Dane Soderberg/Instagram)
Victoria-born Lifehouse vocalist calls out SD61 on proposed music cuts

‘It will be a big loss to future generations’ Bryce Dane Soderberg posted to his Instagram

Ballet Victoria is honouring Rosemarie Liscum, the president of the board of directors who was instrumental in the building the dance company. Liscum died earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Ballet Victoria)
Rosemarie Liscum remembered as dedicated, instrumental builder of Victoria Ballet

The president of the ballet company’s board of directors died at the age of 59

Marianne Turley is one of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners for Honour in Culture. (Bulletin file photo)
Longtime Vancouver Island Symphony board member gets posthumous culture award

Marianne Turley receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Honour in Culture

The CVAC Fine Arts Show is always something to see and 2021 promises to be no different, as they adopt a fully multimedia approach. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Fine Arts Show goes multimedia for 2021

The show, which runs from May 1-22 will be available both in person and online.

Dinner After a Death, a painting by Sooke artist Bryan Cathcart is part of a collection featuring his work at the Outsiders and Others Gallery in Vancouver. (Contributed - Bryan Cathcart)
Sooke artist finds creativity by expanding artistic horizons

Bryan Cathcart, 26, featured at Vancouver gallery

Viking-inspired fantasy writer Joshua Gillingham of Nanaimo and Seattle-based Islamic science fiction editor Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad are co-editing ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star.’ (Photos submitted, illustration by Lada Shustova/Figue)
Nanaimo author co-editing historical anthology connecting Vikings and Muslims

Joshua Gilligham presents ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star’

Saltair-based writer, Krista May. (Janet Kelly photo)
Island writers make long-list for 2021 CBC Short Story Prize

Krista May and Angie Ellis among 33 finalists selected out of over 3,000 entrants

A writer studying in England drew from her roots growing up in Sooke for a story that’s been short-listed for a prestigious international prize.
Former Sooke resident up for prestigious writing award

Cara Marks earns nomination for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Three Legged Dog Productions performed Jesus Christ Superstar in 2019. Tim Penney photo
Non-profit plans musical renaissance in the Comox Valley

Three Legged Dog Productions is preparing for a summer residency at Filberg Park

View Gallery curator Chai Duncan admires the work of graduating visual art student Hailin Zhang, one of the artists in the upcoming End Marks grad show. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
VIU visual art grad show presented as virtual gallery tour due to COVID-19

‘End Marks’ exhibition is on display from April 29 to May 30

Most Read