The Incarcerated InkWell

Federal Inmate in a Canadian Prison with a Life Sentence writes about prison life

Interview from Stacey Corriveau

Uh, Stacey Corriveau is schizophrenic in a good way. Explaining that doing ‘one thing’ would bore her to tears, she is a community developer, social enterprise consultant, technical writer, public speaker, tax preparer, and bookkeeper. When not glued to her desk, she is enjoying good food, and the company of her five cats in an embarrassingly large heritage home. A self-described ‘learning junkie’, she will complete a six-month public policy course in June. An only child who was socialized among supremely interesting adults, she couldn’t relate to kids even when she was one. So her maternal instincts seem to instead have been directed towards small animals… and federal inmates.

1) It’s been a while. The last time we talked, you were preaching peak oil and tending a herd of locavores in the Fraser Valley. What’s blinking on the social justice radar these days?

LOL I’m still appalled by peak oil, but have become markedly more cynical. I feel in my gut (and I want to be wrong!) that we have passed the point of no return, and are now unable (even if we wanted!) to stop the ‘environmental tsunami’ that is headed our way. And strangely, I find myself vacillating between the mundane workings of everyday life (doing groceries, watching TV, volunteering in the community on comparatively teeny tiny projects) and absolute terror of what lies just around the corner. The surreal thing is that if we keep our heads out of research and news on the topics of climate change and resource depletion, the status quo prevails: people (including me!) are still hanging out at Starbucks, going shopping, doing their thing. The fact that we are not directly experiencing much in terms of Mother Nature’s ‘feedback loops’ compels the lemmings to continue with their dogged path. I just read a great blog entry from James Kunstler today: The world gave the appearance of doing nothing and going nowhere over the past month – apart from the sensational liaison of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, which, some believe, augurs a dazzling speed-up of the much prayed-for economic recovery, return to full employment, $2.50 gasoline by summer, and the selection of Jesus Christ as VP running mate by Mitt Romney – but, in fact, so much trouble is roiling under the surface all over the world that it makes you feel seasick on dry land.


2) A popular American politico recently proclaimed democracy as the big lie. So why do you think so many are willing to die for it?

I don’t feel that I have any value to bring to this question.


3) Everyone agrees that consumerism will destroy the earth — if nuclear war doesn’t get us first. How can we break our addiction to stuff?

That is SUCH a good question! I am inspired by the work of some of the people of Transition Towns, who are trying bravely to imagine — then live — this new reality. What strikes me is that the ‘new’ reality looks more like Little House on the Prairie than any future that we have been conditioned to hope for. And we don’t trust our neighbours – it’s game theory at work: ‘why should I conserve water when the Joneses next door are going to carry on with their long hot showers?’ I believe that it is going to have to get a whole lot more uncomfortable for us before we change our ways. We will change when there is no other choice available to us. And by then, it will be too late. Wow, how cheery my responses are turning out!


4) You spent two years teaching small business techniques to prisoners before walking away. What convinced you that it was a waste of time?

Two years??? Walking away??? Those are fighting words, my friend! Good thing you’re cute! It was actually late 2002 through to mid-2009. I guess ultimately, I walked away because I was tired, and felt beaten down by the very people I was trying to help. One of the best relationships of my life was sacrificed (my former boyfriend asked me to choose between him and my work with the ‘filthy inmate scum’ and I don’t do ultimatums well); I had to convince at least five new wardens in the same number of years that supporting an inmate arts co-op at Mountain Institution was a good idea; the fight to create policies to support self-employment within the prison system turned out to be in name only; we ran out of project funds then burned out as volunteers; and the core group of guys ultimately turned on me. I woke up one day, and wondered why I had sacrificed so much. I turned off to the whole project in that moment. Perhaps I should have tried harder.


5) Do you think that Canada should re-adopt capital punishment — in certain cases?

You won’t be expecting this answer, Ira. I do think that capital punishment should be enacted in certain, rare murder cases where we are 100% certain of guilt, intent, and sanity. I would like to see animal abusers strung up as well, but I recognize that this is just a reflection of my own queer ideology.


6) Canadians always point south when asked what’s wrong with the world. Yet all of our fashion, our music, our opinions, and our entertainment is stamped “made in the USA.” What is it about Canadians that makes us feel superior to Americans?

One word: poutine


7) If you could spend a year behind bars with any person in history, who would you pick? Why?

You! Because we would have a good time. Or Charles Manson: because I could always see how people were magnetized by his charisma. I would want to know more about this, er, skill – and would use it for ‘good’ on the street, likely directed to environmental initiatives. Ask a twisted question…


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