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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

The Costs of Confinement: Ordered and Asked.

Many people are finding the structures and impacts of social distancing and self isolation challenging. This morning I saw a wave on social media of people really struggling to ground themselves, which is hard to bear witness, when many employers, and academic institutions are hell bent on carrying ahead, with no responsiveness to the increased workload and stress of many community members.

So as an offer of my experience and work, I tweeted this:

Landing, grounding, presencing our Spirits in times of change, especially when it's tumultuous, requires deliberate attention, patience and loving effort. I honour those, still journeying, I am too. I can feel myself coming fully to this present, but something might happen and it might get delayed, and I will honour that.

I will and need to respect that.

An Elder told me that I need to thank my Spirit everyday, for it works so, so hard for me, even when I don't feel like putting in the effort, my Spirit is always working for me. It's got me through every challenge of my life so far and I need to be grateful, for it needs that love. When I talk about self love, this is the attention and nourishing I'm speaking of.

If our Spirit's are working their essence's off, to keep us safe and healthy, we need to bear witness to that work. With thoughts and words of gratitude and graciousness. A negative self narrative, starves a Spirit's health and we don't want to starve something that needs so much love, nourishment and honouring.

Mediating on this, really got me thinking about what does confinement do to a person? If this is long term, what will it do to our Spirits? How does it impact our health?

What happens in sustained environments that are designed to crush a Spirit?

What happens in prisons?

Solitary confinement?

If we are anxious, uncomfortable, and struggling with what, a week of social distancing, what are adults in custody enduring?

With Indigenous women being the fastest growing canadian incarcerated population, I think it’s our responsibility to trouble IBPOC imprisonment.

I’ve been doing a lot of research for Break Horizons and I read in a report from the feds, that about 88% of Indigenous femme AIC’s (adults in custody), are victims of physical and or sexual abuse. That’s almost 9 outta 10 of the incarcerated population, who are victims of serious trauma. And if you know how trauma works, you know that without therapy, supported and ongoing healing, trauma metastasizes.

The pain and problems begins to double and grow and so the trauma, harm to self and others, becomes a social positioning of offence and reoffending, because AIC's are people in deep pain, without the tools to break the trauma cycle.

As a survivor of intergenerational trauma, someone who's been diagnosed and recovered from PTSD, I know the truth of this. I know how integral psychotherapy is to getting the tools, to live with health and balance is.

These Women, Femme's need our help - not jail. They need Healing Lodges.

There are a total of 9 lodges in Canada, 4 run by CSC and 5 by primarily Indigenous community partners. They are restorative justice focused and about rehabilitation. The rate of recidivism (reoffending) is remarkably low for Healing Lodges 6% compared to almost double at 11% at traditional prisons.

Healing Lodges have only been operating in canada since 1995, so the quantitative data on their effectiveness is not comprehensive, but the people I've talked to who run them, work there, and are in them, are astoundingly positive. Quantitative data in support for Healing Lodges is incredibly high.

There is a great article here that gets into the complexity of reporting on data alone, that I strongly encourage you to check out.

Vicki Chartrand, a Bishop’s University sociology professor who has focused on Indigenous incarceration says, "When settlers colonized Indigenous lands, the people were dispossessed of many aspects of their way of life. In many ways, the prison took over when assimilation policies failed or receded."

Prisons have become the next state tool and system for Indigenous genocide. There is no doubt about this. It's the state systematic removal of Indigenous peoples, with a focus on Indigenous Matriarch's, from our peoples, communities and remember, it always comes back to, the land.

For the state has always known that the way to break an Indigenous person, is to take us away from our territories, the land where our Spirits are deeply connected. To break an Indigenous person you take away their ability to listen to the land - you take away their language. To break an Indigenous person, isolate them from culture, community and kin.

Prisons, are efficient modalities to accomplish this. They are the ultimate Spirit crushers.

Not only are they effective imperial systems of oppression, they are guised under the operative that they "protect the public." It's well known that prisons, cause more trauma and are not restorative justice focused, they are punishment focused.

Many prison reform experts challenge the states propaganda that prisons "protect the public", because they actually result in more traumatized individuals being released into the public, which is far more dangerous.

There are reports that people have "escaped" from Healing Lodges, but in many, almost all cases, they AIC's have been peacefully captured and or they returned on their own. I don't hear that every happening in fucking at prisons.

Prisons, are economic generators, designed to uphold IBPOC oppression. Healing Lodges are designed to create environments and opportunities for the AIC's to address the trauma and heal.

Not only are Healing Lodges the humane and safer approach, they cost us less. In a report done summarizing prison costs, which you can read here, it states that, it can cost up to "$250,000 per year for women" in traditional prisons. To house a woman in a Healing Lodge is, approximately $160, 000.

Okimaw Ohci, the most expensive healing lodge for women in canada had a 2017 operating cost of $8,907,589. In comparison, the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, has a 2017 operating cost of $27,857,804.

Now, again because the reporting on Healing Lodges is not as comprehensive as it should be, there are numbers saying that HL's are more expensive, but they are also running smaller institutions. Like running any smaller scale business, the ratios make straight comparative quantitative analysis problematic. There are also not enough studies on the fiscal savings of Healing Lodges low rates of recidivism.

What we as community members can do, is our due diligence on Healing Lodge's and trouble the dogmatic notions that traditional punishment driven prisons, are what we as citizens want to be paying for, supporting and upholding. We need to be asking our MLA’s about their stances on jurisprudence and whether they support restorative justice, like Healing Lodges or crime and punishment prisons.

It's quite simple for me, as a person whose endured trauma, I would've died in a traditional imperial prison. The framework, isolation, the constant high alert. I would die.

I find solitary condiment to be abhorrent and a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Neurologists say that within 60 seconds of solitary condiment, the brain is negatively impacted - 60 seconds, some AOC’s are in there for months, some years. Most because traditional prisons are not set up to protect AIC's, so they get put into solitary, "for their own safety."

Prison’s have not evolved since medieval times, and we are all responsible for upholding and supporting them.

When we are being asked to confine ourselves, and a lot of us our struggling, I think it's our humane responsibility, to think about those who have been positioned and oppressed into judicial confinement.

In a time when fear is enticing us to collapse inwards and disconnect, I want to be brave and reach, think and look out. I think our survival and the healing lives in the connection with those who desperately and urgently need our support, to break out of the confines and positioning of the oppressive canadian state imperial system of law.

Otherwise, I believe we will be bonded through our shared suffering and collective misery.

The Dalai Lama says, "All human beings, whatever their cultural or historical background, suffer when they are intimidated, imprisoned or tortured . . . We must, therefore, insist on a global consensus, not only on the need to respect human rights worldwide, but also on the definition of these rights . . . for it is the inherent nature of all human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity, and they have an equal right to achieve that."

With the desire to connect and bear witness to all those struggling, deep love,


#AbolishSolitaryConfinement #AbolishPrisons

#BreakHorizons #IndigenousLove

p.s here are some more links if you're interested in learning more about the incarceration systems we uphold.

Update on Costs of Incarceration

Adult and Youth Incarcerated Stats

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge

CSC Report on Healing Lodge

CSC Strat Plan for HL's

CSC Indigenous Corrections

Buffalo Sage HL

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