Michael Hurley

BCFI volunteer, Michael Hurley, presented two poems, “Down Inside” and “22-Year-Old Feet”, for Robert Clark on Friday, May 10th. We thought we would share them with you here. Enjoy!

Down Inside

            for Robert Clark, with respect, admiration and gratitude,

              a poetic version of  your story as recounted in your compelling memoir


   “This story of the loss and regaining of identity is, I think, the framework of all literature.” –Northrop Frye


“People live inside of stories that structure their lives.” –James Joyce


Down inside

the belly of the beast

down inside me

down inside the darkness within & without

down inside the hole

that swallows the light

that would let us see

what we don’t want to see,

hear what we don’t want to hear,

say what we don’t talk about.

Down inside the prisons

to our left or to our far right

& the ones behind the eyes

where Jekyll meets Hyde

& insists on hiding still.


Down the rabbit hole

to the other side

wandering for 30 years

in the fenced-in wilderness

threading the maze

the mayhem & the unexpected magic moments,

then surfacing at last

a little worse for wear

a little sadder but wiser

on society’s carefully guarded beach-head

surviving to tell the story

nobody seems eager to hear

nobody seems eager to reveal,

surviving to tell the warts-&-all tale

of something that doesn’t quite survive,

doesn’t quite trust

what you & I

turn a blind eye to,

doesn’t get too comfortable

with the polite domesticated silence

that suffocates the wee small voice

down inside

that needs to speak,

to testify, to hold court,

to write that message in a bottle

& set it free

not knowing whose shores

it’ll wash up onto next.


Something cast adrift, left behind

still languishing or taking root

in the shadows cast

by the beast

who bears our name,

tethered to the haunted house

where justice

(or perhaps punishment)

has pitched its ragged tent,

where the keys to all the locks

have been lost, or hidden,

perhaps only misplaced

perhaps not much longer

here down inside

down inside

each unknown known

squarely in our midst

we somehow manage to ignore

manage to wall out, lock up, block off,

manage to manage

though we’re all doing time,

though we’re all serving a life sentence,

though we’re all chained or linked together

in the same big, beautiful, crazy, scary boat.


-Michael Hurley


Presented 10 May 2019

22-Year-Old Feet

          -for Robert Clark, pathfinder, map-maker, witness, with our thanks

 “Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering…” -“Anthem,” Leonard Cohen


You’re 22.

You think you’ve come to Kingston

to train to be

a phys. ed. teacher

back home in T.O.

You think it’s a slam dunk.

You think this & you think that.

You don’t expect

your next 30 years

are curled up inside

the tiny bud

of a seemingly raNdOm notion

to volunteer


at a prison

 a prison!

 of all things

smack dab in a small city

coalescing out of skeletons

marinating in ancient seas

with the unlikely unpromising unappealing moniker

“The Incarceration Capital of Canada.”

Welcome to K-Town, Robert Clark.

You won’t be the only one

not escaping

over its limestone walls.

And guess who built those walls,

those proud public edifices,

 those grim gothic prisons,

young man?

Who knew?


Those 22-year-old feet

didn’t figure on

a future that’s made up its mind

to set ‘em walking up & down inside

countless corridors & ranges

& leaping red-tape morasses

in 7 different federal prisons,

& wearing twice that number of hats,

& seeing it all from more angles

than a Cubist painting.

Who knew?


At 22

you don’t see yourself

in what could be a movie script

(with a Tragically Hip soundtrack)

dealing with daring escapes, lockdowns, murders,

suicides, riots, the “blue wall”

& things that go bump in the night

(& even the day)

courtesy of guys named Hobo, Hostage, Brutus, Bernardo, Snake, even Conn,

courtesy of guys with sort fuses,

or no fuses,

courtesy of guys in uniform

sometimes with similar wiring

or without faces somewhere in deepest darkest Ottawa

enjoying the unmitigated contempt

of “offenders” & staff alike.


Nobody – let alone yourself –

can yet imagine you

you arranging hockey games in max-security Millhaven

or you chilling in a darkened gym

with 300 inmates

watching Hang ‘Em High

courtesy of a bank robber projectionist

or working with victims of these men

themselves often victims of victims.

Who knew?


Still your 22-year-old feet

somehow find themselves

crossing thresholds

descending down inside

inmost caves,                                                  

brailing their way

along this strange & daunting path

this sketchy road

of trials, temptations  & transformations

no one else seems called

or willing

or resolved

to move along

as if …as if your life somehow knows

where it’s going

even if you haven’t a clue.

It’s forgotten to tell you

as it forgot to tell Frodo or Neo,

Luke, Indy, Dorothy, Anne with an “E,” Hermione, Captains Kirk & Jack

and others summoned to unwelcome quests

listen – you’re in the right place

however forbidding or frightening or frustrating

right where you need to be

  & are damn well needed to be,

right on time,

with – who knew? –

the Right Stuff.


Those 22-year-old feet

are about to leave the Shire

far behind.

For three decades

they’re no longer in Kansas, Toto

(or Kingston

as most know it).

And when they return

return to walk down main street

nothing will be the same,

nor will you.

Journeys through the cracks

in the system

are funny that way.

That’s how the light gets in.

Who knew?

Who knew?

Something inside us

knows the price of admission

& volunteers anyway,

ventures through the looking glass,

vaults across the Edge of The Wild,

lighting whatever candles are at hand

then comes back

back from Mordor, Millhaven or those lost places within

with a story

needing to get out,

a tale to tell,

a bell to ring

trusting there’ll be an ear to hear it,

another heart to share it

& someone else’s 22-year-old feet

unsteady, uncertain, untried

 to carry it

down inside

once again.

Once again

carried forward

 by some…some insistent voice

down inside

reminding us

 who we truly are

is larger than who we think we are,

that we work on ourselves

to help others

& we help others

to work on ourselves.


Who knew?                                                             


-Michael Hurley


Presented 10 May 2019

BCFI annual report 2017


2017 marks Book Clubs for Inmates’ tenth anniversary of transforming lives through the power of books.

BCFI Founder Carol Finlay Receives Meritorious Service Medal 06/07/18


The board of directors of Book Clubs for Inmates is delighted to announce that Founder, Carol Finlay, received a Meritorious Service Medal (blue medal in photograph) on Friday July 6, 2018.



Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada presented the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) to Carol Finlay, O.Ont., M.S.M. at the ceremony at the Citadelle of Québec.

As Carol says, “ I accepted this award on behalf of all the wonderful volunteers and financial supporters of BCFI, without whom none of the work of BCFI would be possible."

BCFI joins National Associations Active in Criminal Justice (NAACJ)




We at BCFI are very pleased to announce that we  have been recently become members of NAACJ (National Associations Active in Criminal Justice). The goal of NAACJ is to enhance the capacity of its member organizations to contribute to a just, fair, equitable and effective justice system. 

BCFI joins 19 other member organizations who are  national in scope and who represent a diversity of groups engaged in the field of criminal justice. This diversity covers a variety of areas, including non violent conflict resolution, transitional housing, law, research, advocacy, policy , training, literacy, counselling and restorative justice. Membership offers us the opportunity to engage with other community based justice related organizations, Correctional Service of Canada and Public Safety in a more co ordinated and effective manner.

For more information on NAACJ please go to their website at www.naacj.org

Colin campbell, author of Free Days with George,
and george visit bath book club



BCFI is thrilled to thank Thomas Heintzman OC, a retired litigation lawyer, who collected nearly 4,000 books from neighbours, colleagues, and friends during a month-long book drive for Beaver Creek Institution's library. Tom sent out over 200 emails asking for donations of the books requested by inmates, and also collected dictionaries, reference books, text books, cook books, and more. Today, Thomas loaded the books into a moving truck and drove them up to the library. Many thanks to everyone who donated books! Thank you, Tom!

Journal of Prisoners on Prisons
Dialogue on Canada's Federal Penitentiary System and the Need for Change

Northumberland resident Carol Finlay named to the Order of Ontario
Northumberland News


The darkness inside Canada's prisons
CBC Sunday Edition


Carol wins CSC's highest volunteer honour
The Kingston Whig-Standard