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Mr. Pirozzi left me to figure out what he meant. As I understand it, the cart he is being asked to pull is full of programs the institution wants him to take; the gate that is too small is the gateway to a transformation that he cannot make room for on their terms because it would be an admission that they have the right to make him over. Pat Pirozzi's centaur in chains added a powerful and evocative image to the one given to me fifteen years before by Edgar Roussel, during an interview in the first Quebec SHU; Mr Roussel had described the theory behind the SHU's as an attempt to effect a metamorphosis of a prisoner from caterpillar to butterfly which no human agency, apart from the prisoner himself, had the right to make.

During their long imprisonment in the SHU's, Terry Somerton, Lance Blanshard and Pat Pirozzi, despite their rage and their fear that they had lost part of their humanity in the struggle to maintain it, had found ways to remain connected to the world outside. Terry Somerton, for whom the physical beatings he had experienced had become "tattooed in his brain" told me of his love for music and the collection of tapes he had amassed over the years. It was through music that he came closest to expressing what was left of his capacity to feel human. A few years previously he had started corresponding with a French Canadian woman who was paralysed and confined to a wheel chair. He had recorded a piece of music he had heard on the radio and as a Christmas present he had tried to send it out to her. Because he had not got permission to send out a tape, it was intercepted and never reached her. For Terry Somerton, this interference with the things that gave meaning to his life, his music and his few friendships on the outside, were worse than the physical beatings. Mr. Somerton told me that he listened to a number of late night FM disc jockeys and that way he not only maintained a connection with his favourite artists from the past (some of whom we discovered we shared) but was also able to enlarge his understanding of contemporary music, and in this way "remain connected."

For Lance Blanshard, remaining connected had come through his efforts to become both print and electronically literate. The purchase of his new computer, even though he had little in the way of software, provided for him a primary link with the world which had essentially rejected him for almost the whole of his life.

Pat Pirozzi's approach to keeping in touch had it's own distinctive mix:

It's mostly by watching television and fixing broken machinery. I use television as a three purpose tool: education, recreation, and, if need be, masturbation. I watch educational programs time and time again and whenever I see something new I tell myself I just learned something today. I can watch the same program on the Knowledge Network over and over again and every time there's something new I take in. (Interview with Pat Pirozzi, February 14, 1995)

There was one other person I interviewed in February, 1995, who had been in the Prince Albert SHU for as long as Mr. Pirozzi and Mr. Blanshard. She was not, however, a prisoner but a school teacher. Bea Frances, in reflecting on her ten years experience, commented on the relationship between her concept of education and the CSC's enthusiasm for programs based upon cognitive life skills. Ms. Frances strongly believed that if education was to bring about changes in peoples lives, whether in prison or outside, it had to be grounded in a search for human values; she therefore saw the CSC's cancellation of the university program as a step backwards. She was also concerned about the decision of the Service to use correctional officers, rather than teachers and educators, as the primary facilitators for the cognitive life skills programs. She believed that this was being done not just to develop staff morale and a sense of professionalism, but because the Service could maintain much better control over these programs if it was implemented by its employees as opposed to contract educators.

The last thing Bea Frances told me was perhaps the most significant and symbolic. Her approach to education and to teaching the prisoners in the SHU was firmly based upon the concept that people were always redeemable and perfectible, a concept she found best reflected in the poetry of Robert Browning. She agreed with me that this was not a philosophy which was shared by many of her colleagues in the SHU, and probably not by many of the prisoners either, but without it her work in the SHU would be impossible. By the time I was ready to leave Prince Albert SHU the next day, Bea Frances had made sure that a copy of her favourite Robert Browning poem was in my hands. These are some of its stanzas:

From thence -- a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks --
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.

What is he but a brute
Whose flesh has soul to suit,
Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play?
To man, propose this test --
Thy body at its best,
How far can that project thy soul on its lone way?
Yet gifts should prove their use:
I own the Past profuse
Of power each side, perfection every turn:
Eyes, ears took in their dole,
Brain treasured up the whole;
Should not the heart beat once, "How good to live and learn"?

So, take and use Thy work:
Amend what flaw may lurk,
What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in Thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!
(Rabbi Ben Ezra, Robert Browning , 1864)

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