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Union: NL Associates’ Prison Outreach Project
by Associate Gerry Marshall
Nano Nagle lived to help the poor, marginalized and impoverished in her community and beyond. Nano’s passion to help “those people” several hundred years ago is still alive today.
Almost everyone knows someone touched by mental challenges and addiction, two common afflictions that can start a person on the slippery slope towards crime and incarceration.
The segment of the population who find themselves behind bars are often forgotten by those on the outside. Our associates group, one of two groups in the St. John’s area, decided to collect used games, puzzles and cards for those living in prison.
Gerry Marshall, one of our associates who works as a correctional officer at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s, had the idea and coordinated our project as an extension of our 300th anniversary celebrations.
As a group we made a conscious choice to gather gently used items, rather than purchase new, in an effort to encourage recycling in our world so often caught up in a spiral of needless consumerism. This idea also presented an opportunity to clean out closets and cupboards, so we reaped several benefits during our project.
Pictured here are some of the dozens of items we collected and Gerry happily delivered our donation to Cindy Whitten-Nagle, manager of institutional programming.
Some of the games and puzzles were also sent across the island to the Women’s Correctional Centre in Clarenville, the Bishop’s Falls Correctional Centre and the West Coast Correctional Centre in Stephenville.
The donation was gratefully received and Gerry saw evidence of that on several occasions. When Gerry entered one prison range and asked who was making the puzzle, they answered, “We all are!” That’s not often the case on a unit that houses 21 offenders.
One offender kept a puzzle in his cell, spent every minute he could working in it and refused to disassemble it when he was finished. He very carefully applied several coats of floor wax over the puzzle until the pieces were fused together and the image had a nice sheen.
That puzzle is hanging in the program room and is enjoyed (both the attractive picture and the technique of wax application) by many.
Something as simple as a deck of cards is worth a lot to people with nothing but time on their hands. The offenders were delighted with our offering; the spirit of Nano lives on.