Changes at Ford Mountain

One thing that interests me is the history of the place. A friend had spent some time here in 1999 and told me what it was like then before the fences were installed. He was only at Ford Mountain for a few months but said it was one of the best periods of his life. An older inmate who was first here in the mid 60s tells me that it was a lot better then with more things for fewer inmates. There is a storage building here called the ’Studio’ which he tells me used to be for painting and other arts. Next door is the ’Craft Shop’ which houses a ceramics (not to be confused with pottery) workshop where inmates can purchase green ceramics, clean them up by removing the mould lines and sanding, fire in an on site kiln, glaze and fire again. There is everything from simple cups to elaborate sculptures of rattlesnakes, saints, gargoyles and vases. I did a cup because that is the only way to acquire a personal cup here aside from hand me downs. The same is true of clocks. The ceramics program was popular as one did not require the skills needed for working in the Hobby Shop. The ceramics program was discontinued and the instructor’s contract terminated while I was at the camp. There was a rumour that the space will be used for programs such as cognitive skills, anger management etc. It’s a cutback on things that inmates want and can do for themselves. The move is probably seen as focusing in on the core business of the institution — treating inmates through providing programs.

While facilities are being reduced, the showers and two washrooms in the gym have recently been removed, the capacity of the camp has been increased by sixteen inmates. This is being done by eliminating the common rooms in the huts in the old “downtown” part of the camp. The argument is that now that each room has its own TV set the common areas are unnecessary. Additional capacity is being added by converting rooms to double occupancy with bunk beds.

Other inmates mention the decline in other activities such as special occasions. There was no church sponsored picnic the second summer I was there. Christmas is apparently not what it used to be, not that I care. Even the adequate meals used to be better. What repeat inmate miss most is the lack of former opportunities for good times. No doubt selective cutbacks in expenditures could restore the availability of booze, dope and excursions down to the Hear But Never See (Chilliwack) River where I am told girls would sometimes meet the men. Less is more?


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