Dreamwork With Inmates: Looking Back on January & February 2019

In January the Dreamwork with Prisoners initiative continued to grow. Four more inmates began calling or writing letters bringing the number of active participants up to 14. In February, three more joined in so now there are 17 inmates calling from three separate jails or penitentiaries in Ontario – Maplehurst Correctional Complex, Toronto South Detention Center and Warksworth Institution.

The most remarkable day was the Saturday in January when seven people called. Many of them called two or three times so I spent 40-60 minutes with them. Each of them either had a new dream to share or wanted to continue talking about the issues brought up from dreams they shared earlier in the week. Issues range from working through childhood trauma & sexual abuse, having addiction issues, dealing with high degree of anger and violent inclinations, feeling a lot of disappointment after the holidays and dealing with strong feelings of guilt or remorse for the actions associated with their charges. Many of them either have court coming up or were just returning from court and were feeling discouraged with the lengthy trial process.

Interestingly, one inmate woke up one morning with the guards surprising him with the news that he had court that day. In court, the charges were dropped and he was released! Can you imagine that? Waking up one day in jail and going to bed that night at home in your own bed. This 27 year old spent 17 months behind bars only to be released with charges dropped. He was falsely accused of possession of firearm but there was never any evidence found to back up this accusation and it appeared to be a ruse from someone who was trying to get a lighter sentence by pointing fingers at someone else. In the end, there was never any evidence found to back up this charge and the inmate was released. Now comes the task of starting over and beginning a new life.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

In addition to the therapy work I do with the inmates, I also sometimes support them with legal matters. Several of them ask me to contact their lawyers regarding upcoming bail or court sessions and one asked me to contact the jail directly to advocate regarding a medical situation which requires attention. In December I did some media liaison work for a highly publicized case involving criminal charges pressed against a cop who shot an inmate. The inmate has recurring nightmares about the shooting and we are working through it together.

Many ask me to send texts or phone calls to their family members, their children, their spouses. I consider it a good trade – they share their dreams & I hook them up with their family. It’s a win-win. It brings me a lot of joy when I patch the call through to a family member and when they hear their loved one’s voice they squeal with happiness. Sometimes months or years go by before people speak to their family, especially when their family members are on limited budgets and can’t afford the long distance phone fees or the out-of-town travel expenses.

Since it was such an exciting month, which really marked a milestone in terms of volume of calls and the variety of ways I’m able to support the inmates I thought I’d share an update with those who have been showing encouraging support for this initiative. 

When I told one of the inmates, named Josh, that I’ve been sharing the work with others, telling them what I’m doing, and accepting donations to keep the work going he was really surprised. He said, “Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone in my life who would just hear about a project and then give money to support it. And to give money to help us out in jail? That’s amazing. You must really know some good people.”

I told him I do and I’m very grateful for the generous support of many friends who have encouraged this work since its inception in Fall 2018.

Going forward, I just plan to keep taking the calls, keep writing the letters, keep writing & posting about dreams, and keep an open mind about where things might lead. As Tom Petty says, “The future is wide open!”

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