Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GELA-FLIF-APIRG Edmonton Women's Prison Tour Debriefing

Last week members of FLIF, GELA, and APIRG went on two tours of the Edmonton Women's Prison led by corrections staff members. 

GELA has worked very hard to implement several projects in the prison community including bringing in books from the Edmonton Public Library based on the requests of the inmates because they do not have access to library cards or the EPL library catalogue. Requests are varied and include materials in different languages such as Arabic, Chinese, etc.

GELA has a great relationship with the inmate librarian Cathy to develop and execute projects such as the children's storybook project, supporting and growing the prison's library, book clubs, EPL loans, fundraising, and information literacy initiatives. GELA is interested in starting a technology literacy initiative that is in the very early stages and welcome anyone interested in participating in this discussion. 

Volunteer Opportunities: 
GELA is always looking for volunteers for the storybook project. This involves completeing two training sessions and takes place one Saturday per month. You don't have to go every month, but having a larger pool of available volunteer is helpful. You would go into the prison and use a voice recorder to record an inmate reading a children's book and then burn the recording onto a CD and then the book and recording is sent to the inmate's child. Don't worry if you don't have a voice recorder or laptop or experience with audio editing - we are happy to support you in getting access to the skills and technology you need to participate in this project. 

There is a mentorship program that matches inmates with mentors that is looking for people to participate in this capacity. This program includes meeting with inmates in the prison as well as escorting partners to cultural and social events.  They are always looking for people with different perspectives and especially younger people for this project.

GELA is organizing an art show at the Latitude 53 community gallery in the spring of 2012 of works made by the inmates. Help organizing this project would be appreciated and is something that could be done outside of the prison facility.
The library is always accepting donations of books. Contact GELA for a list of specific requests for the library.

The technological literacy group led by GELA member Masha would be a great opportunity to share your expertise and get involved in this capactiy.
For library school students GELA has also supervised a practicum at the prison library - this would be a great opportunity for an unusual practicum and a very rare and valuable experience. If you are interested in community librarianship or working with marginalized communities this could be a great fit.

There are lots of opportunities for getting new projects started, lots of things are possible if you have a passion and want to start a project. Past examples have been a zine that was produced based on the writing of the prison inmates.

FLIF would like to thank the volunteers at GELA (Sarah, Liz, Allison, Danielle & Anna) for organizing this tour and participating in this discussion, the prison facility staff, and APIRG for organizing the tour members and transportation to and from the facility. There was a lot of interest in these tours this time around and we could not accomodate everyone. If you are interested in these programs or possibly going on a tour in the new year please let us know and if there is interest we can work to organize another tour in early 2012. 

If you have any questions about these programs please check out the GELA blog -
or email us at flifblog (at) and we can connect you to the GELA Google Group

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