Transcript: Walls to Bridges | Nov 30, 2018

A clip shows a woman walking outside her house at dawn.

Tiina says I WAKE UP AT 5:10, GET
READY, HAVE A LITTLE SOMETHING
TO EAT, DRINK SOME LEMON WATER.
MY BAGS ARE ALREADY PACKED.
I WALK THE DOG, AND THEN OFF TO
WORK.
I LIKE TO GET THERE AT 5:45.
LUCKILY MY WORK IS, LIKE,
SEVEN MINUTES FROM MY HOUSE, SO
I GET THAT LITTLE EXTRA BIT OF
SLEEP.

Tiina is in her forties, with straight blond hair in an asymmetrical cut.

Jeyan says THIS IS A TYPICAL DAY
FOR TIINA ALIA ELDRIDGE, WORKING
FOUR JOBS AND LIVING IN HER
MODEST APARTMENT IN DOWNTOWN
TORONTO.

Tiina says I'M WORKING MONDAY TO
FRIDAY AT THE MEETING PLACE WITH
WEST NEIGHBOURHOOD HOUSE.
I WORK THREE MORNINGS A WEEK:
MONDAY, WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY
FROM 6 A.M. TO 8 A.M. AT THE
GYM.
I WORK OVERNIGHT SHIFTS ON THE
WEEKENDS AT A SHELTER.
IT'S RELIEF SO IT'S KIND OF
DIFFERENT SHIFTS ALL TIME.
AND THEN I'M ALSO WORKING AS A
PROGRAM COORDINATOR.

Jeyan says LIFE LOOKED A LOT
DIFFERENT FOR TIINA MORE THAN A
DECADE AGO. SHE WAS STUDYING IN
HER HOMETOWN OF SUDBURY AT
LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY.
AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP FORCED
HER TO WITHDRAW FROM FRIENDS AND
FAMILY, AND SHE ULTIMATELY
DROPPED OUT.
SHE HEADED TO TORONTO, BUT
TROUBLE FOLLOWED.

A caption reads "Tiina Aila Eldridge. Social worker."

Tina says I BECAME INVOLVED IN
CRIMINAL ACTIVITY, KIND OF TO
SUPPORT MYSELF.
ENDED UP BECOMING INCARCERATED.
I RECEIVED AN EIGHT YEAR, FOUR
MONTH AND ONE-DAY SENTENCE.
I SPENT ALMOST SIX AND A HALF
YEARS INSIDE.

Jeyan says SHE SERVED SOME OF
HER TIME HERE AT KITCHENER'S
GRAND VALLEY INSTITUTION FOR
WOMEN, A FEDERAL PRISON.
IT WAS AN EXTREMELY LOW POINT IN
TIINA'S LIFE, AND SHE FOUND
HERSELF IN A DARK PLACE.

Tiina says I GAVE UP, I THOUGHT
THIS WAS MY LIFE. LIKE,
NOTHING'S GOING TO GET BETTER
THAN THIS.
I'M NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO
BREAK FREE FROM THIS SYSTEM.
I TRIED TO COME OUT ON PAROLE
A COUPLE OF TIMES, FAILED
MISERABLY. THERE WAS EVEN A
GUARD THERE WHO USED TO CALL ME
THREE TIME AND THAT WAS FOR
THREE TIME LOSER BECAUSE I
VIOLATED MY PAROLE THREE TIMES.
HE CALLED ME THAT TO MY FACE ALL
THE TIME AS A HUMILIATION.
IF HE SAW ME LAUGHING OR
SOMETHING HE WOULD BE LIKE WHAT
ARE YOU LAUGHING AT THREE TIME?
YOU KNOW YOU'RE GOING TO BE
SPENDING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
IN HERE.
THAT'S THE TREATMENT AND HOW
YOU'RE MADE TO FEEL INSIDE, LIKE
YOU'RE A PIECE OF GARBAGE AND
YOU'RE NOT WORTH ANYTHING.

Jeyan says INMATES HERE AT
GRAND VALLEY INSTITUTION FOR
WOMEN, ALSO KNOWN AS GVI, HAVE
MORE FREEDOM THAN THEY WOULD IN
PROVINCIAL JAILS.
PRISONERS CAN COOK THEIR OWN
MEALS, WEAR THEIR OWN CLOTHES,
WORK ON THEIR HIGH SCHOOL
EDUCATION AND MORE RECENTLY EARN
UNIVERSITY AND COLLEGE COURSE
CREDITS.
SHOSHANA POLLACK HAS BEEN AN
ADVOCATE FOR IMPROVED EDUCATION
ACCESS IN CANADIAN PRISONS FOR
OVER 20 YEARS AND IS A PROFESSOR
OF SOCIAL WORK AT WILFRID
LAURIER UNIVERSITY.
SHE'S ALSO THE DIRECTOR OF WALLS
TO BRIDGES CANADA.
THE PROGRAM LAUNCHED AT GVI IN
2011 AND BRINGS INMATES AND
UNDERGRADUATES TOGETHER TO LEARN
INSIDE A CORRECTIONAL FACILITY.
BOTH GROUPS EARNING CREDITS
TOWARDS A DEGREE OR CERTIFICATE.
THE CONCEPT OF BRINGING
PRISONERS AND UNIVERSITY
STUDENTS TOGETHER STARTED IN THE
UNITED STATES THROUGH A PROGRAM
CALLED INSIDE OUT. POLLACK
TRAVELLED TO PENNSYLVANIA FOR
A SEVEN-DAY TRAINING COURSE
AND IN THE FALL OF THAT YEAR THE
FIRST COURSE WAS OFFERED AT GVI.

The caption changes to "Shoshana Pollack. Walls to Bridges director."

Shoshana is in her forties, with long curly brown hair and wears glasses, black trousers, a black jacket and a printed scarf.

Shoshana says PRISONS ARE HOLDING
A LOT OF CREATIVE, INTELLECTUAL,
SMART, FUNNY, GIVING FOLKS.
WHEN YOU BRING THESE TWO GROUPS
TOGETHER, BOTH OF WHOM MIGHT
HAVE PRECONCEPTIONS ABOUT ONE
ANOTHER, YOU END UP DEVELOPING A
LEARNING COMMUNITY THAT'S BASED
ON EQUALITY AND COLLABORATION,
AND WE BREAK DOWN ALL SORTS OF
STIGMAS BETWEEN PEOPLE.

Jeyan says THAT'S WHERE TIINA
CAME OUT OF HER SHELL.
AFTER A LITTLE CONVINCING, SHE
SIGNED UP FOR A COURSE.

Tiina says I WAS FEELING A LOT OF
INTIMIDATION ABOUT WHO I WOULD
BE MEETING, WHAT THEY WOULD BE
THINKING ABOUT ME, WHAT THEIR
PERCEPTIONS WOULD BE, WERE THEY
GOING TO BE ASKING ABOUT MY
CRIMES, WERE THEY GOING TO BE
JUDGING ME, WERE THEY GOING TO
BE STEREOTYPING ME.

Jeyan says A COMMON PRACTICE ON
THE FIRST DAY OF A WALLS TO
BRIDGES COURSE IS TO USE
ICEBREAKERS TO TEAR DOWN
BARRIERS BETWEEN UNDERGRADUATES
AND INMATES.

Tiina says ALL OF A SUDDEN WE'RE
JUST REGULAR PEOPLE WITH
EVERYBODY ELSE.
ONCE WE'VE BEEN TREATED SO
BADLY, THEN, YOU KNOW, THAT
OPPORTUNITY TO JUST FEEL LIKE
YOU FIT INTO SOMETHING WAS
REALLY AMAZING.

Jeyan says TIINA HAD ALMOST
COMPLETED A BACHELOR'S DEGREE
BEFORE BEING INCARCERATED.
SHE WAS ONLY TWO CREDITS SHORT.
AFTER COMPLETING COURSES THROUGH
THE PROGRAM, SHE COMPLETED HER
DEGREE.
AND IS THE ONLY PRISONER IN
GVI'S HISTORY TO EARN A
BACHELOR'S DEGREE WHILE
INCARCERATED.
AND AFTER GETTING PAROLE, SHE
CONTINUED HER EDUCATIONAL
PURSUIT AND WAS ACCEPTED INTO
LAURIER'S MASTER AND SOCIAL WORK
PROGRAM.

Tiina says TEARS WERE KIND OF
RUNNING DOWN MY FACE.
I WAS THINKING MY MOM WOULD BE
SO PROUD OF ME IN THIS MOMENT,
YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
MOST OF MY LIFE THAT'S KIND OF
BEEN... MY MOM PASSED AWAY WHILE
I WAS INCARCERATED, SO MOST OF
MY LIFE I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT
SHE'D BE SO DISAPPOINTED IF SHE
KNEW HOW MY LIFE TURNED OUT, BUT
JUST THAT THOUGHT OF HOW PROUD
SHE WOULD BE, WITH HOW MUCH I'VE
ACCOMPLISHED.
THIS IS MY M.S.W.

Jeyan says SINCE THEN THE
PROGRAM IS NOW OFFERED IN NINE
JAILS IN CANADA.

Tiina says OH, B.A. RIGHT HERE.

Jeyan says AND OVER 70 PROFESSORS
HAVE BEEN TRAINED TO TEACH A
COURSE. AND IN THE SIX YEARS
SINCE WALLS TO BRIDGES HAS BEEN
RUNNING AT GVI, 150 CREDITS HAVE
BEEN EARNED.
JILL GIGNAC IS AN INMATE AT
GVI.

The caption changes to "Jill Gignac. Inmate."

Jill is in her thirties, with long straight brown hair with bangs and wears a black top and a blue Adidas tracksuit jacket.

Jill says I GOT CHARGED IN APRIL
2017 WITH TRAFFICKING DRUGS.
AND I SPENT ABOUT 10 MONTHS IN
WINDSOR JAIL, SOUTHWEST
DETENTION CENTRE. I ENDED UP
WITH 5 YEARS, 9 MONTHS AND 27
DAYS.

Jeyan says FOR INMATES LIKE
GIGNAC, WALLS TO BRIDGES
COURSES OFFER MORE THAN JUST AN
OPPORTUNITY TO EARN UNIVERSITY
CREDITS.

Jill says THERE'S NOT VERY MANY
OPPORTUNITIES.
THERE'S... IT'S KIND OF THE SAME
DAY OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
SO WHEN WE HEARD ABOUT THE WALLS
TO BRIDGES CLASS, EVERYBODY
TRIED TO JOIN.

Peter is in his forties, with short receding brown hair and wears a short-sleeved blue shirt and earrings.

Peter says AS FAR AS I WAS
CONCERNED IT WAS A NO-BRAINER.
SOMETHING THAT I KNEW WAS GOING
TO GREATLY DECREASE THE CHANCE
OF THE WOMEN COMING BACK.
IF THEY HAVE ANY ACCESS TO
POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION, YOU'RE
LOOKING AT ABOUT A 50 PERCENT DECREASE
IN RECIDIVISM.

Jeyan says PETER STUART IS
THE CHIEF OF EDUCATION AT GVI
AND HAS SEEN A LOT OF CHANGES
SINCE HE FIRST STARTED WORKING
IN THE PRISON MORE THAN 10 YEARS
AGO.

The captain changes to "Peter Stuart. Grand Valley Institution for Women."

Peter says THERE WERE A LOT OF
WOMEN HERE WHO WERE FINISHING
HIGH SCHOOL AND THEN HAD NOTHING
TO GO INTO.
AND THERE WAS A GREAT DEAL OF
DEMAND FROM THEM TO FURTHER
THEIR EDUCATION EVEN MORE.

Jeyan says BEFORE THE PROGRAM
WAS INTRODUCED, THE JAIL WAS
OFFERING CORRESPONDENCE COURSES,
A FORM OF LONG DISTANCE
EDUCATION WHERE THE COURSE WORK
IS DONE THROUGH THE MAIL.
FOR THE WALLS TO BRIDGES
PROGRAM, THE COST FOR INMATES IS
NOT PAID BY THE FEDERAL
CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM, BUT THERE
ARE BURSARIES AND PRIVATE
FUNDING FROM THE PARTNERING
UNIVERSITIES.

Peter says I'VE RARELY HAD
STUDENTS LEAVE HERE AND DO
POST-SECONDARY AFTER THEY LEFT
HERE. CERTAINLY AT THE
UNIVERSITY LEVEL, AND THAT HAS
INCREASED SIGNIFICANTLY SINCE
WALLS TO BRIDGES HAS COME IN.
WE'VE BEEN GAINING THAT
CONFIDENCE TO SEE THAT I CAN DO
WHAT ANY OF THOSE STUDENTS IN
THE COMMUNITY CAN DO.

Jeyan says SINCE 2012 THE JAIL
HAS OFFERED 14 DIFFERENT
UNIVERSITY-LEVEL COURSES RANGING
IN SOCIAL WORK, SOCIOLOGY AND
GENDER STUDIES.
THE PROGRAM IS HOPING TO EXPAND
ITS COURSES TO INCLUDE SCIENCES
AND MATH.
THE WALLS TO BRIDGES PROGRAM
EXPERIENCE DOESN'T STOP ONCE AN
INMATE IS NO LONGER IN PRISON.
TIINA NOW WORKS AS A PROGRAM
COORDINATOR FOR WALLS TO BRIDGES
AND STILL KEEPS IN TOUCH WITH
THE PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE WHEN
SHE NEEDED THEM.

Tiina says PETER DROVE ALL THE
WAY TO SUDBURY.
HE DROVE ME TO SUDBURY.
HE WENT TO MY GRADUATION AT
LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY AND HE WAS
ALSO MY GRADUATION FROM LAURIER
AS WELL.
SO WITHIN AN OPPRESSIVE SYSTEM
WHERE YOU DON'T GET A LOT OF
SUPPORT FROM PEOPLE, THOSE KEY
PEOPLE CAN REALLY MAKE A
DIFFERENCE.

Jeyan says TIINA WAS RELEASED
IN MAY 2013, AND SHE HAS SINCE
GONE ON TO COMPLETE HER MASTERS
IN SOCIAL WORK AND BOTH SHOSHANA
AND PETER WERE THERE TO WITNESS
THE ACHIEVEMENT.
THINGS HAVE COME FULL CIRCLE
FOR TIINA.
MOST RECENTLY SHE WAS A GUEST
LECTURER AT A SOCIAL WORK CLASS
SHE HAD TAKEN JUST A FEW YEARS
PRIOR.

In front of a class, Tiina says SO THAT FIRST QUESTION
WAS KIND OF LIKE A HINT OF WHAT
WE'RE GOING TO BE DISCUSSING
TODAY, BECAUSE...

Tiina says THE CRIMES WE COMMIT ARE
CRIMES THAT WE COMMIT TO
SURVIVE, THAT WE COMMIT AS A
RESULT OF EXPERIENCING VIOLENCE
FOR MOST OF OUR LIVES, AND WE
GET CAUGHT UP IN THIS SYSTEM.
AND IF NOTHING CHANGES AND WE
COME OUT AND WE HAVEN'T HAD
ACCESS TO EDUCATION, WHERE ARE
WE GOING TO GO? EVERYTHING IS
GOING TO STAY THE SAME.

She looks at her certificates and says I GUESS WE NEVER FRAMED THEM
BECAUSE WHEN YOU ARE IN JAIL, SO
MANY TIMES THEY COME AND SAY,
ELDRIDGE, PACK YOUR STUFF YOU'RE
MOVING ON SO YOU NEVER WANT TO
GET COMFORTABLE ANYWHERE.
I ALWAYS THOUGHT I WAS GOING
TO MOVE OUT OF HERE, I NEVER
THOUGHT I WOULD STAY HERE. THIS
IS THE LONGEST I'VE EVER LIVED
ANYWHERE OTHER THAN THE TIME I
WAS INCARCERATED.
I GUESS IT'S TIME.
I SHOULD GET SOME FRAMES. I'VE
GOT THE WALL SPACE FOR THEM.

(music plays)

The end credits roll.

Ontario Hubs Field Producer, Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO.

Editor, David Erwin.

A slate appears with the caption "Ontario Hubs are made possible by: The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Walls to Bridges