Trauma and Compassion…

Jan 24, 2022

What if prisons were more humane?

The notion of trauma induced criminal activity is not new but the idea of asking what happened to you vs what’s wrong with you is beginning to have an impact.  Here, three witnesses to the experience of trauma and its influences on our choices, especially its presence in the construct of almost all criminal acts then intensified by the prison experience: Fritzi Horstman (Compassionate Prison Project in California)  Pia Puolakka (Smart Prisons in Finland) and Teresa Nyoroge in Kenya. (A 25 min video)

Compassion Informed Prison Project – Frtizi Horstman   Two videos:  Step inside the Circle and Honor Yard; Six part trauma Informed Series (cf Podcasts for a series of articles on the Adverse Child Experience; also Documentaries under About on landing page; also Newsletter Interview with Bessel van der Kolk | Compassion in Action (67 min video)  The whole site is well worth exploring especially as a source for trauma as part of the criminal and prison experience.  See also Youtube Dr. Bruce Perry, co-author of “What Happened to You?” with Oprah Winfrey | Compassion in Action  (64 minute interview with Dr. Perry and Fritzi Horstman; link offers access to other Youtube presentations on trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences / ACE.

Pia Puolakki – Smart Prisons Project (Finland) – this site explores the Finnish approach to positive prison rehabilitation in “open prison” approaches vs the traditional closed or secure systems.   Cf also Europris – Pia Puolakki   Smart Prisons in Finland (2021)   Texts / Agenda of Europris workshop presentation   Europris website is also worth exploring, especially for its endorsement of improved technology in rehab.

Teresa Njoroge of Kenya   Ted Talk – What I learned serving time for a crime I didn’t commit  (Cf also Woman without Limits Series – Part 1-

 Write On! Supporting Prisoners through Correspondence

First, here’s a testimony to the helpfulness and reliance of prisoners on the written word, especially those serving long sentences:  “Sometimes I look around my small cell and I notice the books I have everywhere. Some allowed me to escape this claustrophobic space to vast lands far away. Others taught me things, made me laugh, cry – each are my loyal friends who have never let me down.” ( )  Next, here’s a way to be helpful:  Write On is “a small, volunteer-led and non-incorporated group of students, workers and Ontario residents who support and stand in solidarity with prisoners across Canada.  We answer prisoners’ letters and respond to their research requests on everything from general legal information to prison policies and special interest reading material. You can read more about our group on our website here –

Dennis Ward News – Tweet / APTN News
Death of Will Ahmo in custody in Headingley, MB

“RCMP have announced a Corrections Officer at the Headingley Correctional Centre has been charged with Criminal Negligence Causing Death and Failing to Provide the Necessities of Life”  Additional reporting: APTN News – Darrell Stranger   Family of Will Ahmo looking for answers into his death at Headingley Correctional Centre   Additional report:  CBC News – Headingley corrections officer is charged in 2021 in-custody death of inmate William Ahmo – Robert Jeffrey Morden charged with criminal negligence causing death  Related article:  Edmonton Journal – Jonny Wakefield   Lockdowns, staff shortages and ‘warning shots’: inmate describes desperate situation at Edmonton Max during COVID’s fifth wave

  Tweet from Prison Health:
Why do so many movements for police reform fail? Structural Obstacles to Democratic Policing

Christopher Stone, Professor of Practice of Public Integrity, and Jonny Steinberg, author and writer around criminal matters in South Africa, have a conversation around why police reform seems destined to failure whenever attempted.  (78 min Youtube video)

INews (UK) – Will Hazel
Prisoners could take apprenticeships while behind bars to train for jobs on release – More prisons to be given ‘in-cell technology’ in the form of a laptop or tablet to make it easier for prisoners to access education

Two programs are well known to help people released from prison avoid returning to prison.  The first is connections to family which puts the whole “forgetful” culture of prisons at question.  The second is education.  This article confronts both apprenticeships and internet education.  The use of the internet may also be helpful to the family connections.  But neither is common in British or Canadian prisons and are almost exclusively viewed through the prism of institutional security.  Time for a new assessment for the UK and Canada?

Tweet from Samuel Sinyangwe (US)
Mapping Police Violence just released a report finding 2021 was one of the *worst years for deadly police violence on record.

5593 people have been killed by US police since and including 2017.  The count does not include those who died in prison or in custody, just those shot by police.  Two thirds of the killings were outside the commission of a crime by the person killed.  “The majority of these killings began with a mental health crisis, traffic violation, disturbance, other non-violent offense or situation with no crime alleged. Only 1 in 3 cases began with a reported violent crime.” (Follow the string of tweets)  Full report:  Police Violence   2021 Police Violence Report    Related article; Ottawa Citizen – Matthew Lapierre  Community activists criticize proposed changes to Ottawa Police Services Board procedure – “If residents cannot ask questions, how can they expect to get any answers?”

Waterloo Crime Prevention
UPstream Speaker Series – An ongoing series of events discussing upstream prevention concepts and strategies from various perspectives. Together let’s (re)think our community.

A virtual Re-Thinking series: Prohibition. Allyship Journey with Indigenous People, Re-Think Youth Perspective Dates and times at the link along with previous Re-Think sessions


Community Adult Justice Network (CAJN) and Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW).

Two Digital Anti-Racism Workshops presented, the first on January 26 from 9 – 11 am (Anti-Islamophobia 1O1 Virtual Workshop and the second on February 9 from 9 – 11 am Countering Cyberhate 1O1 Virtual Workshop    You must register in advance. Please register at following link: