Saturday, December 20, 2014

Just me and the cockroaches... and the mice

My last shift at the corrections centre. No residents. No staff. Just a few pieces of furniture here and there, waiting for the junk removers.

My eyes were opened to a lot of new perspectives here, in the last three years. I saw a lot of young men struggling to get their shit together with a whole lot of odds stacked against them. I saw a lot of systems that don't work and a lot of people who should care about that and don't. I saw a lot of people wielding power with no wisdom behind it.

I saw more racism and homophobia than I could stomach but rarely from residents; mostly from dull-minded men in blue who were sitting on the wrong side of the glass as far as I'm concerned.

I saw men turning slowly into zombies, their minds softening; men who'd bargained for conditional release by submitting to potent monthly injections. 

I saw men with mental disease slipping through the cracks; never likely to get the help they need.

I saw men with criminal records running all the way back to their juvenile years, mirroring their history of attempted suicides.

I heard men calling me "Sir" until I'd reminded them my name five or six times; not that they'd forgotten it.

I saw a lot of men leaving six mornings a week at five or six, busing to their dirty jobs at the recycling plant or the moving company or the roofing company. I saw a lot of men doing their chores and keeping their dismal home as clean and tidy as possible.

I saw a lot of men helping each other out; sharing food and passing on hand-me-down clothes.

I saw one man's parole privileges withheld for years because he refused to admit guilt. Then finally a judge declared his trial amiss, reversed his charges; declared him innocent.

I saw men begin to panic as their warrant neared expiry because they didn't know how to live outside an institution. I saw them do what they needed to do to get put back in prison. 

I saw a lot of new guys nod vigorously when I gave them my advice: Don't try to get away with anything. They have more ways to catch you at it than you know. And then I saw them prove me right. I saw men with loving families; kids overjoyed to see their dads again; one step closer to home. And then I saw some of those men eventually leave in handcuffs. The thoughts of their kids still haunt me.  

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