My knowledge of life behind the walls was formed by the murders and riots reported on in our local paper. It was basically by fluke that I started going inside.
After graduating from high school, I began attending Queen’s University. While at at the university, a chaplain at Millhaven asked if we would like to volunteer every two weeks with the maximum security institution’s B.I.F.A. (Black Inmates and Friends Association) group.
It was there that I met the man who eventually became my husband. A lifer, Glen was the only white member of the B.I. F. A. executive and best friend of the chair. When he transferred out to a prison in British Columbia, I kept in contact with him sporadically for our mutual friend. Prisoners in those days were not allowed to write each other directly, so I had to act as an intermediary. In 1983, Glen told me in a letter that he had become a Christian and had recently been baptized.
Our correspondence picked up to where it was crossing the country a couple of times a week. By the time he transferred to William Head two years later, I had moved to Victoria with fourteen boxes of books, my pots and clothes. I was visiting Glen regularly two or three times a week while completing my master’s thesis.
I can still remember the day Glen had asked me to marry him. I hadn’t been into visit for seven days as he had been thrown into segregation after contraband had been found in his cell. While in the “hole” Glen had a vision that he should ask me to marry him.
A community assessment was completed as they needed to make sure that I knew that Glen was in prison serving life sentence for committing a murder during the course of a Brink’s robbery. During the interview, I recalled what I knew of his offense.
About four weeks later, a pink activity slip arrived in the inmate mail. Upon it was written, “the Attorney General of British Columbia has given you permission to get married.”
Glen and I took marriage counseling with the chaplain. A surprise bachelor party was held for Glen in the prison gym. My bridal shower occurred a few days later. Glen and I made up a list of people who needed to be approved to be able to come to our wedding. My father had just had a heart attack, so no one from my immediate family in Ontario were able to come. On the list of over 100 people there was a reformed Montreal bank robber who was giving me away, Glen’s family, volunteers from the community, correctional staff, prisoners and visitors. The list also included items that would be brought into the prison such as: the top of my parents’ wedding cake from thirty one years prior, engraved wedding invitations, my wedding bouquet, Glen’s boutonnière and navy blue pinstripe suit—the one he had also been convicted in. We were given a special 72 hour private family visit.
The sun was shining on the day we were married: June 21st, 1987. I had picked that date as it was both Father’s Day and the summer solstice. After waking up, I phoned home to my parents on the family farm. I took a bath and got dressed in the royal blue cocktail dress that my roommate’s mom had made for me. Arriving at the prison, I was driven from the front gate down to the red brick chapel where we were married in a beautiful ceremony by the man who baptized Glen four years prior in Kent. Then we had a non alcoholic reception that the inmate committee put on for us in the visiting area complete with a three tier wedding cake made in the prison kitchen.
Afterwards, Glen and I were driven to the private family house on the southwest corner of the prison property. After eight years, Glen and I were alone together for the first time in our lives. I suddenly felt shy and decided to put away all the groceries in the kitchen and my clothes in the bedroom. Glen called me to come to the living room and sit down on the sofa. He put on Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits on the tape deck. Dr. Feelgood came on and Glen started singing along with Aretha. I cracked up and started to laugh. Suddenly all the tension in the room started to dissipate. I discovered shortly thereafter that Glen had tattoos which I never knew existed. It would be over five years before Glen got out of prison on parole and came home. By that time, he had transferred to a minimum security prison on the Lower Mainland.
Our experiences inside prison formed the basis of an organization we founded in 1992, called L.I.N.C. (Long-term Inmates Now in the Community). The L.I.N.C. Society works with all people impacted by the criminal justice system. L.I.N.C. believes in and is committed to the following principles:
1.That every person within society has a fundamental right to be safe and secure.
2.That everyone is part of the reintegration process where all people have an inherent value and dignity.
3.That the positive contribution of every person can have a meaningful impact on the spirit of justice and on the sense of well-being within the community.
4.That hope for the future lies in the potential of every individual to change, and in the willingness of others to support and encourage that change.
Supporting victims of crime has become an integral part of the work that L.I.N.C. does. This has evolved over the years to where we now provide direct service to victims through our outreach for survivors of serious crime, funding and organizing victim centered community events, victim peer support groups, assisting victims to attend conferences and workshops and through funding provided by our agricultural social enterprise Emma’s Acres.
Glen and I have been able to do some amazing things.
Who would have known that by getting married in prison 28 years ago, our partnership would help us effect positive change in our little corner of the world.
Updated with content from article in Elephant Journal
The Mission City Record carried the following story on November 5, 2012: “Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals for 11 Missionites”
The article reported that “Eleven Mission residents were presented with Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals by MP Randy Kamp at Cedarbrooke Chateau on Nov. 3.”
Among the Award recipients was LINC’s Sherry Edmunds-Flett. The Mission City Record included the following about Sherry:
“Sherry was born in Kingston, Ontario and graduated from Queen’s University in 1982 with a Bachelors degree in Sociology. Sherry continued on in her studies and earned a Bachelors degree in Education in English and Music.
Later on, Sherry earned a Masters in African Area Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and earned doctoral candidate status in History at Simon Fraser University.
Sherry is a founding member of the Black Canadian Studies Association and a lifetime member of the Association of Black Women Historians.
Sherry met her husband Glenn while he was in prison and teaching Adult Basic Education in provincial prisons. Sherry and Glenn then founded the Long-Term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society which seeks to positively intervene in the lives of persons sentenced to lengthy terms of incarceration and in the lives of their families.
Sherry has successfully promoted her philosophy of restorative justice by helping offenders reintegrate into their communities to become positive contributors. Sherry’s efforts have brought hope to many who otherwise would have found themselves hopeless.”
Other Missionites who received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award were: Dr. Marco Terwiel, Claire Clemo, Amanda Peebles, Leslie Reed, Sgt. Bob Reed, Dave Bryant, Don Lobb, Cal Crawford, Ken Herar, Sherry Edmunds-Flett, and Vir Singh Pannu were recognized for their service to the Mission.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.
For the full article and group photo available on the Mission City Record’s website click here or click here to download the article as a pdf.
The sixteenth annual L.I.N.C. clean and sober free Christmas dinner will be held on December 13, 2012. This yearly event provides an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the season with his or her families and members of the L.I.N.C. team. The festivities will include a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, Christmas carols and Santa Claus.
The location is St. Andrew’s United Church, 7756 Grand Street Mission, British Columbia. The time is 4:00 to 8:00pm. Dinner is served at 5:00pm.
L.I.N.C. SOCIETY together with
VALLEY VIEW FUNERAL HOME
will sponsor a
HOMICIDE BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT GROUP
The 7 – week program will begin
Tuesday, October 30th – December 11th
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
#208 2825 Clearbrook Rd. Abbotsford
For more information and to register please call: Marlyn Ferguson: 604-596-8866 or 604-816-2144 (cell)
Co-Facilitators: Misty Cockerill and Roy Schubert – have firsthand experience of homicide loss and are well trained in facilitation skills offering compassion and understanding.
There is no cost to take part in the support group
One of the primary goals of our homicide loss, self-help support group program is to provide a safe and supportive environment in which group members can express and explore their thoughts and feelings as they learn to mourn well so that they can go on to live well and love well.
This group is made possible in part by financial assistance from the Province of British Columbia and in-kind support from M2W2 Restorative Christian Ministries.
(News Release by Randie Scott)
On June 6th, the L.I.N.C. (Long Term Inmates Now in the Community) Society was generously provided a $10K grant by Vancouver City Savings Credit Union for its “Growing, Gleaning and Storing Project”. The Mission Soapbox Community Organic Garden is located adjacent to the Mission Leisure Centre. The District of Mission Council recently adopted a resolution to renew L.I.N.C.’s management of the garden for another three years.
L.I.N.C. Executive Director Sherry Edmunds-Flett said “L.I.N.C. is quite pleased to receive the grant from VanCity and we appreciate their commitment to our Mission community project.
This will further enable us to give back to our local area and provide offenders the opportunity to contribute to our community. Our offenders are taught how to manage a garden ‘from seed to sale’ including record keeping, organic certification processes, public communication and education.”
VanCity Mission Branch Manager Grace Saris presented the $10K cheque and commented “VanCity is pleased to support the L.I.N.C. Society to help promote a viable and sustainable local food system, especially one that contributes to a healthier environment, improved individual health and the local community.”
L.I.N.C. has been managing the 20 year-old garden since January 2010 and has been active in providing opportunities for community gardening and education. The garden is used by seniors, single moms, others with low incomes and families who want to provide an environmental experience for their children. The project also provides offenders being released back into the community with meaningful opportunities to give back to society.
The garden educates people about food security through various events including an open house, the Mission Celebration of Community and informal garden tours. Vegetables from the L.I.N.C . plots are sold at the Mission Farmer’s Market to assist with funding of peer support groups for survivors of homicide and other worthwhile groups.
Matched to photo above ( Left to Right):
Randie Scott, LINC Board
Brenda Marshall, LINC Board Chairperson
Sherry Edmunds-Flett, LINC Executive Director
Grace Saris, Mission Branch Manager, Vancity
Shawn Jodway, LINC Board
Matthew Pusic, Mission Assistant Branch Manager, Vancity
Corrine Jewer, Accounts Manager, Vancity
Louise Pochailo, Community Programs Grants Senior Coordinator, Vancity
Starting this week, L.I.N.C. founder Glen Flett, LINC members Kathy G., Angus, Wes et al and Miss Margot will be on Connect with Mark Kelly. The show airs at 5:00pm Pacific Time. Tonight Kathy is on, tomorrow Angus is on, later in the week Glen and Margot and then the LINC gardeners.
Click here to view four of the interviews.