Inmates give back to their community
Inmates are busy as elves this year.
COMFORTING FOR KIDS – Corrections officer Danielle Hodgson is seen with sock monkeys made by several female inmates at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The sock monkeys have been donated to Emergency Medical Services for ambulance staff to give to children who are on-scene when an ambulance arrives. Hodgson suggested the sock monkey project for the inmates (top). SOMETHING FOR NEWBORNS – Corrections officer Brittany Stewart is seen with Christmas stocking bunting bags made by female inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The bags are being donated to the nursery at Whitehorse General Hospital for babies born in the month of December. Photos courtesy GOVERNMENT OF YUKON
Inmates are busy as elves this year.
Crafting everything from stockings to sock monkeys to Yukon Quest trail markers, prisoners are turning Christmas at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) into an opportunity to give back to the community.
The eight women currently incarcerated there are involved in a raft of Yuletide projects.
“They’re doing a great job, the ladies,” said Val Mosser, the deputy superintendent of programs at the jail.
She described sewing projects that include stocking bunting bags, hobo bags and “quillos.”
“We’re donating all the stockings to the nursery at Whitehorse General Hospital,” she said.
Every Whitehorse baby born in December will receive one.
Fifteen stockings had been delivered to newborns halfway through December, with 20 more to come.
Volunteers as well as sewing books in the WCC library instruct inmates on how to sew quillos, though the inmates “are quite talented on their own,” Mosser said.
The quilt-pillow amalgam comprises a quilt that folds into an attached pouch, resembling a pillow.
Two months ago, the women also started creating sock monkeys for donation to Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
The stuffed simians, made of old socks and felt, are “for any child that is either on scene or is actually a patient of EMS,” Mosser said.
“This is just to give comfort to the children. It’s a scary situation having EMS around.”
The women also reach out through the Salvation Army soup kitchen.
“Our girls actually make nutritional snacks,” sending along four- to five-dozen muffins or cupcakes once a week.
Men and women at WCC took part in a winter solstice celebration as well.
Every year, inmates host a meal as well as an art competition.
“We have inmates partake in the cooking of traditional foods, such as bannock,” Mosser said.
The fryebread, made according to directions from the Council of Yukon First Nations, differs from the candied spruce tips and citrusy spruce-tip salad dressing whipped up at WCC for the summer solstice.
Christmas dinner itself will involve the conventional turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and potatoes, Mosser said.
For the art competition, “inmates have the opportunity to draw — we have very talented individuals at WCC — what solstice means to them.”
Visitors and “clients” then vote on the best work, which is framed and hung in the healing room.
Inmates have also helped build drums with the help of elders and the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre.
Prisoners recently adhered pre-soaked skins to drum frameworks and will paint them in the new year, Mosser said.
Each drum represents a First Nation in the territory.
The Whitehorse Community Choir recently spent time at WCC, singing through five caroling sessions in three hours.
“There was a lot of toe-tapping,” Mosser said. “Some men started singing along and one group got up and did all the actions for The 12 Days of Christmas.
“It was really well-received. On behalf of the our units, I’m very thankful.”
Mosser also thanked the anonymous donors who sponsored the visit.
She further mentioned a group of four dedicated male inmates who are painting more than 5,000 individual trail markers for the Yukon Quest.
“Last year, they did 5,350. They did a really great job on it.”
The four inmates are paid between $1.50 and $4.50 an hour under a work program in line with the Corrections Act.
Tipped with orange, the wooden stakes will mark the trail for mushers in February 2014.
“To have them do that many so quickly is really impressive. They’re doing a really great job.”
Mosser added that the Christmas-themed workshops and events overlap with other rehabilitation programs.
These include first aid instruction, graphic design courses through Yukon College and more traditional First Nations classes, like learning to make a spirit rattle from caribou hide.