“Everyone should experience it.”

It is not the kind of statement you would expect from someone who just finished visiting a person in prison. John has been a volunteer with Open Circle for two years and was moving on so he could dedicate more time to other things. He voiced his comment as I spent some time debriefing with him, asking what his experience with Open Circle was like. His comment was not voiced in a negative light. To the contrary. He felt everyone should have an opportunity to “go to prison” so they could experience first hand some of the realities of the Canadian prison system.

In some respects, it is another reason Open Circle exists. Besides providing friendship behind bars, we also provide individual volunteers the opportunity to undergo what could be called an educational experience. Along with the opportunity to interact with those serving time, learning about their struggles, hopes and dreams. They also have the chance to connect with staff, encountering first hand the complexity of corrections and toll it sometimes takes on those who live within the system and work within it. All of which, begins to put a far more human face on a world few understand.

There is a famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him”. One of the roles of Open Circle is to provide people with an opportunity to follow Lincoln’s sage advice and perhaps discover that the person they don’t like may in fact be far more human than they thought.