A few months ago, Bath Institution in Ontario was contacted about helping the local fish and game club by making approximately 200 fishing poles for children to use in their 15th Annual Kids’ Fishing Derby. The derby is held in August at the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour and is attended by approximately 700 kids every year, most of whom already have fishing rods. The requested rods were for the less-fortunate children to ensure they could still participate in the event.
Bath saw this as a great opportunity and quickly agreed to assist. They pulled together a number of different departments to make it happen. CORCAN at Regional Headquarters supplied the scrap wood from which the fish were built and transported the goods. Under the supervision of Social Program Officer Mike Wells, inmate workers at Joyceville Institution were able to cut the outline of the fish, sand all edges, and pre-drill the mouths for the eventual rods. The fish blanks then came to Bath.
It was there that offenders from the recently opened Moderate Intensity Intermediate Care (MIIC) Unit, supervised by two staff - Annah MacDonald and Ali Visintin - went to work priming and painting the fish. With limited guidance, they were given full artistic freedom and the results were tremendous. The men completed 200 fish, no two of which were the same. They were proud of their accomplishments. The project gave some the opportunity to work within a group environment and a sense of purpose. It’s important to note that some of these men were working within a group format for the first time. Mental health staff believe this exposure will greatly assist with future group interventions.
Although this provided an employment opportunity for the first few offenders, as the deadline approached several additional men from the unit volunteered to help. In addition, the Bath Inmate Committee was supportive of this initiative and donated the funds required for purchasing the paints, brushes, dowels, and glue ($400). The recreation staff at Bath personally purchased the “googly-eyes” that really set the fish off nicely.
Overall this was a win-win on many fronts. The benefits to the offenders with such mental health needs was truly remarkable. And now, the Kingston community and its children will be able to participate in the fishing derby for years to come. The staff involved were grateful to play a role.