Hear from Adelina Iftene, a volunteer facilitator at Millhaven Maximum Institution's book club.
"I have dedicated my academic legal career to studying the issues of incarcerated individuals’ rights, to advocate on their behalf, and to teach students to fight for ensuring the humanity of punishment and to question the utility of the overuse of incarceration.
In my work I have seen the difference volunteers and non-governmental organizations make in the lives of prisoners, from education, to motivation, and to creating significant interpersonal relationships. As someone who deeply believes in the power of education, compassion, and rehabilitation, I could not think of a better way to complement my work and to give back to the community than to volunteer with BCFI. Wearing my volunteer hat, I can interact and help prisoners in a manner not accessible to me as a professional: we read, we tackle deep societal issues, we debate opinions, we question our beliefs, we learn about others, and we strive to accept and understand. It is a two-way educational process, from which I gain as much, if not more, than the incarcerated people attending the book club do.
Milhaven Maximum Institution is a rough place to hold a book club: the security is tight, people are sometimes not allowed to come out of their range for the book club, and sometimes they don’t receive the passes to attend the meeting. Because prisoners are allowed out of their cells for less time than in other institutions, activities often overlap. It often happened that from a dozen sign-ups we ended up with five or less participants. However, any frustration I may feel dissipates by the end of the meeting. The relationships of trust and understanding that are being built month by month, the depth of our conversations, and the laughter we share, makes overcoming any obstacles in holding our meetings worth it.
Our BCFI meetings at Milhaven have no doubt been some of my most meaningful monthly experiences over the last year. I am proud to be part of such an incredible team of staff members and volunteers, who share the values I hold so dear, and who dedicate their time and efforts to improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities."