Author’s note: Fredericton’s Planning Advisory Committee has recommended against the rezoning required to build a jail near the community of Lincoln. While many of us breathe a sigh of relief there remains an uneasiness in the air. Why do we need a new jail during a time when communities are crying out for support and health centres and hospitals close down essential care departments for the holidays?
What is driving the ideology behind the need for a new correctional institution in the Fredericton region? The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Jeff Carr seemed to imply that the new jail would be a good thing and a step in the right direction for those struggling with addiction and hoping for recovery.
Forgive me if I don’t agree with Mr. Carr in the belief that a prison recovery centre is the answer to an ever-worsening crisis of housing insecurity and the struggles of those experiencing substance abuse disorders.
In my frustration, I thought of a poem written by the late poet and UNB Writer in Residence Alden Nowlan titled, A certain kind of holy men.
I have always viewed poets as teachers who help reveal to us the importance of humanizing the experiences and oppression of others. I wonder if those who feel a jail is a good thing ever take the time to sit and reflect on the current reality of life in New Brunswick. Here is a poem I have written in response.
The In Between Part II
(after reading Alden Nowlan’s A certain kind of holy men)
They want to build a prison
Someplace not far,
Perhaps a newer more benevolent bastille
It was to be erected amongst industrial roots and junkyard debris
past the marina
and the charming centennial homes
bordering the Wolastoq River
(The beautiful river)
They say it will be
A Good Thing
A safer, kinder place to house the unhoused
An easier way
as to brushing rubbish paper underneath an old dresser
Out of thought and out of sight
We must not forget
Nowlan teaches us
there is a certain kind of holy man
Who find themselves wrapped in old comforters
sitting silently stoic
cross-legged on frozen concrete
with swollen weather-beaten hands
strong and current
Joshua Allen is a social worker and poet residing in Fredericton