Writing provides creative escape for inmates
- EFN Staff | August 23, 2017
Creative Escape, a book of intensely personal poems and prose, is a result from a creative writing program for inmates at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre (SCC). Diann Block, who is the SCC Cultural Coordinator, said that the booklet was used as a resource in English classes at the University of Saskatchewan. The literature featured pieces of fiction, non-fiction writing, and artwork from inmates who took the writing program in jail.
Shane Gamble from Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation contributed two pieces to Creative Escape. He said writing was his way of a temporary escape.
“It’s like you’re built up with all these emotions and you don’t know what to do with them,” he said. “[Your thoughts] just sit there lingering. Suddenly, you just start writing and a massive weight comes off your shoulders because you’re holding onto all these things all these years. It’s pretty amazing what a pen and paper can do.”
Gamble, who served over a nine-month sentence at the SCC, said being in jail is like reliving the same day over and again.
“Its like trying to build up a routine that you know that you’re going to do again tomorrow, next week and next month,” he said. “It really sucks but at the same time, that’s where your true self comes out. Like I started to learn who I really was.”
Gamble added being locked up was a bad feeling, but yet one of the best feelings he’s ever felt, as it was an eye-opener to his own problems. He was introduced to the creative writing program in the SCC and was asked to come up with some literature pieces. Gamble grew up with a dislike of writing but his perspective changed when he took the writing program.
“The more I would write, it was like I was right there reliving the moment,” said Gamble. “Its like my mind took me out of there, I was no longer in jail anymore. My mind was free to run…it was a real powerful feeling.”
After Gamble served his sentence, nothing has been the same for him in a good way. He moved from the reserve to the city, got his licence and took a six-week scaffolding program, which resulted in landing him a job to lead a team as a foreman in a matter of months. He said he got all these things that he never thought he’d have.
“I got my family back and we all have jobs. I never had structure before and I never had anything to look forward to,” Gamble said. “I don’t want to call myself a success or anything but I’m happier.”
He said writing not only helped him lose track of time being locked up, but it gave him hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. He continues to write in his spare time hoping to publish his own life story one of these years, he said.
“Never give up on yourself. You just got to have goals and have a positive mind frame,” added Gamble. “It doesn’t matter what you did or how you got [in jail], what matters is what you do next. Don’t be scared to write. We’re all writers in our own stories. The justice system can take your freedom but they can’t take your freedom to write.”