Monday, June 11, 2012

A Slow Scenic Ride to Scranton...

Sunday began with a hearty breakfast at the restaurant next to the motel - a Roll Ways Breakfast - no cholesterol sausage, eggs, homefries and toast and jam, all washed down with coffee!  It hit the spot.  Eventually the waitress just left the coffee pot on the table!  As I ate I watched a young family at the next table over and recalled with fondness the times we had travelled with our two boys when they were small and the joy of colouring at the table as we waited for our food.  The little girl was none to interested in the crayons - she wanted her juice "Gimmie my juice.  Gimmie my juice." she repeated again and again.  The third time the mom gave her the juice and allowed her to hold it on her own, cause  according to her, she was "a big girl now" the inevitable happened... the juice spilled.

I watched a mom and dad mopped up the juice just as the waitress arrived with their meals.  It was pandemonium!  The little girl reaching for her meal, mom trying to finish cleaning up and dad trying to find a dry place to put the plates... ahhh... the joys of parenting!

With my belly full I loaded the bike and headed west on Route 28.  Before long I was riding along side the Ashokan Reservoir.  Seeing all the water that served as drinking water for many upstate communities I was reminded of the oil spill on the Red Deer River and offered a silent prayer for all affected by that environmental tragedy.

Past Phonica and through the delightful little town of Arkville I came to another large body of water, Pepacton Resevoir.  By now it was a gorgeous Sunday morning and already there were folk worshipping on the water with shinning things spinning below the surface!  I watched from the bridge as one such person reeled in a fish and lifted it toward me with a wave.

Onto Shinhoppie and near Fishs Eddy I stopped and watched a Fly Fisherman gracefully casting his line into the eddies and pools of the East Branch Delaware River - such a peaceful and graceful sight!  Before I knew it, I was in Hancock, NY and then being welcomed to Pennsylvania!  The road turned southward and I was treated to more beautiful scenery as I followed Route 6 toward Scranton.

I must have inadvertently set the GPS to avoid all highways - as the route I followed took me by surface streets, through quiet well kept residential areas.  Eventually I arrived at North American Warhorse  - large and I mean large motorcycle dealership.  I needed new boots and I thought I would have a look and see what was there.  Well, they had one pair in my size- Alpinestars, a waterproof boot, cut a little lower than I would like - but the price was right - and they fit pretty good.  Just as I went to pay for them my hearing aid went dead.  I left the clerk and went to the bike to get a new battery - put that in - No Joy!  I returned to the clerk and she was very understanding.  We completed the sale.  She put my old boots in the box and took them to the trash and I walked out in my shiny new boots and put Wal-Mart in the GPS... I needed hearing aid batteries!

A Wal-Mart Super Centre parking lot on a hot Sunday afternoon is not the place you want to be on a motorcycle!!  People were looking at me like I was some alien!  Wearing a helmet and a jacket on a motorcycle... apparently once you are 21 in Pennsylvania you are allowed to make the stupid choice to ride a motorcycle without a helmet.  Lots of people make that stupid choice!

I enjoyed the air conditioned comfort of Wal-Mart as I picked up batteries, shaving cream and other essential trial size items in the pharmacy section... loaded the bike and then it was off to the University of Scranton.  What a beautiful campus!  Prominently promoting its Jesuit roots the campus occupies a number of city blocks.  Unfortunately at this point is where things got a little frustrating.  There was not a sign to be found anywhere as to where to register, check in or otherwise connect with the organizers of the Convocation.  I drove around, went into three different buildings, even the library and up to the Reference Desk and no one knew a thing!!  Eventually I went to a pizza joint next to the  Green Frog hoping to get WIFI and see if there was an email or something... no luck.

I left the a pizza joint and drove around some more... and saw a guy in a tie coming out of a building that I hadn't been in before.  I stopped him and yes, he assured me - this was the place - go right in there.  Well, right in there were four other folk waiting for someone to register them too!  We made connections and chatted - but I really wanted a shower!  On about 4:30PM someone came along and told us to make our way over to Reddington Hall and look for the "purple shirts".  Well, thankfully the "purple shirts" gave me a code to a room and I was able to shower and freshen up!

At 6PM we gathered back in Brennan Hall for supper.  Wow!  What a beautiful meal.  If I'd been by myself I would have taken a picture!  A fancy salad followed by Parmesan Crusted Beef Filet with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Vegetables... and to top it off... a Chocolate Torte with Strawberry!  Awesome!  With our belly full we moved down to the lecture hall after some formalities the first speaker of the event addressed the group:   Mr. John Wetzel, Secretary, PA Department of Corrections.  The brochure advertised Mr. Wetzel talk as "Implementing Community Justice in Pennsylvania" - unfortunately he didn't talk about this - He began by critiquing the former Governor's administration stating that the state ended up where it was because laws were changed without a clear understanding philosophy or corrections... he then spent the whole forty talking about changes within the department based on budget deficits and fiscal restraint.  I would sum he speech up as follows: In Pennsylvania they have 90,000 people under some form of state or county supervision (incarcerated on on parole) and they need to find ways to save money.  By changing some of the thresholds by which and individual is sent into the state system and giving some money to the counties to do diversion programs the state will save money...  He never did give any indication as to what this Governor's philosophy of corrections is.

I believe that the fundamental question that needs to be answered before we tinker with budgets or change laws is: What is the purpose of any "correctional" system?  Is it to repair harm and restore communities or is it to punish those who have broken a law that the community has created?  If the former, you focus on people and problems.  If the latter you focus on less on the people and the problems those people face and more on laws and sentences and building more prison spaces!  Unfortunately, I see Canada and our present regime moving more and more toward the latter... and the surprising thing is that those in whose footsteps we are following are now seeing the folly of their ways and are making changes... based on fiscal realities... the wrong reasons... but making changes nonetheless.

Many communities in Canada have been engaging in restorative practices for the right reasons... Circles of Support and Accountability, Adult Diversion Programs, Sentencing Circles, Victim Offender Mediation, Youth Diversion Program, Community Justice Forums... and the list goes on... for the right reasons - focusing on the needs of individuals and communities!

Sadly, in an attempt garner votes by appealing to peoples' fear the government of the day has us moving toward a place that Pennsylvania and many states already find themselves in - prison rich and cash poor!

On the Sabbath Road...

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