Arresting Hope

Edited by Ruth Ellwood Martin, Mo Korchinski, and Lynn Fels

Arresting Hope
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Arresting Hope reminds us that prisons are not only places of punishment, marginalization, and trauma, but that they can also be places of hope, blessing even, where people with difficult lived experiences can begin to compose stories full of healing, anticipation, communication, ... Read more


Arresting Hope reminds us that prisons are not only places of punishment, marginalization, and trauma, but that they can also be places of hope, blessing even, where people with difficult lived experiences can begin to compose stories full of healing, anticipation, communication, education, connection, and community. Arresting Hope does not present a romantic or nostalgic version of the story of a provincial correctional centre for women. It presents a story that acknowledges pressing challenges, but is also eager to present a testimony to how hopefulness is possible in prison. The editors of Arresting Hope promote hope because they have been arrested by hope's possibilities. Arresting Hope tells a story about women in a provincial prison in Canada, about how creative leadership fostered opportunities for transformation and hope, and about how engaging in research and writing contributed to healing. The book includes poetry, stories, letters, interviews, fragments of conversations, reflections, memories, quotations, journal entries, creative nonfiction, and scholarly research. Telling the whole story of a provincial correctional centre for women is impossible, simply because there are so many stories lived by so many people. Out of multiple and diverse possibilities involving many people, Arresting Hope is focused on five women--a prison doctor, a prison warden, a prison recreation therapist, a prison educator, and a prison inmate--and their stories of grief, desire, and hope. Readers of Arresting Hope Hope will re-trace the warden's vision from its inception. Readers will share in the prison doctor's journal entries and her exploration of, 'What is health?' for women in prison. Readers of Arresting Hope will learn about the ways that babies can live in prison. Readers will learn about the role of a recreation therapist in prison and the significance of Indigenous education in Canadian prisons. Readers will learn about participatory health research processes of transformation. Readers will be introduced to the narratives of some incarcerated women, including Mo Korchinski. They will journey with Mo Korchinski, from childhood through her revolving door incarcerations until she arrives in this prison. Readers will experience, in Mo's narratives and in her illustrations, the transformations that occurred in this prison. Readers of Arresting Hope will get to know Mo as prison inmate, writer and artist; they will also come to know Mo as advocate, researcher, woman, mother and grandmother.


"Arresting Hope provides a window into what is possible when committed, passionate women are supported to do what is right and refuse to accept the bounds of institutional and bureaucratic restrictions. Women whose lives represented a litany of abuse and oppression were provided with opportunities to heal, learn and grow. In this book, we meet some of the women who participated and are among the finest, most compassionate and accomplished advocates with whom I have had the pleasure to collaborate. Sadly, this is far too unique and the reality remains that the success of this initiative in challenging prison systems, structures and authorities was what led to the undermining and vilification of the administration who supported it. This is a must read for those who want to try to inspire renewed hope and pry open storm shutters that currently board up this window. "- Kim Pate, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies"I found Arresting Hope deeply moving. What made me cry were the stories of redemption: where some of the women come out of prison with some support and made better lives for themselves and others. The sense for me in reading Arresting Hope is that a few people came into some of those women's lives and gave them a pleasant environment -- "stepping out of the van and into natural beauty"-- and worked with them, whatever the cost, human endeavour, resulting in redeeming some lives that have gone bad. A note that struck me was the integrity of the people involved in the process. Also, the women were sent out of prison with an affirmation, "you have courage in you, you have honesty in you. " We all need this kind of blessing, but for people to give this blessing to women who have never heard these words before, is very moving. When I now hear the news (about being hard on crime), I feel differently; there's an awareness in me now. Arresting Hope made me want to go and volunteer in a prison. It opened up opportunities. It's a must read for anyone who has a sense of social conscience and humanity. It is about how we treat each other. "- Lindi Lewis, Language Teacher, Vancouver, Canada"Arresting Hope is an impressive and valuable book giving insight in the minds and experiences of detained women, like never done before. The conversations, letters and stories are touching and make the reader realize how important positivism, safety and hope are within the prison setting. It demonstrates that small changes in environment and attitudes as well as a gender-sensitive approach make a big difference for detained women, making use of the unique opportunity for reflection, learning and health. A woman's fundamental right to health is addressed not only by access to health services but also by addressing several factors improving her mental and physical health and well-being. Arresting Hope shows that if prisons are made into constructive settings, much can be achieved in the time period women are imprisoned. "- Brenda van den Bergh, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe"I found Arresting Hope to be an inspirational story told by very credible people-- a wonderful collection of poems and essays and "paragraphs of passion". I thought everything about Mo Korchinski was great, from her entry ("locked away from everyone like a child no one wants") to her departure ("as I walked through the gate three bald eagles flew above me -- the grandfathers watching over me") and everything in between ( "in prison goof is a term reserved for child molesters") . The prison programs allowing child rearing and the "research" projects seem such sensible ideas; one wonders why it took such unusual staff to get them up and running. "- Ian Bennie, retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada

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