How ex-prisoners are helping ex-prisoners.
For newly released inmates, the free world can be a confounding and isolating place. A new UBC study is attempting to change that by connecting them with peers who’ve managed to find their way.
ON THE DAY Larry Howett got out of prison, he was faced with something he had never seen before: an automated ticket dispenser at a SkyTrain station. As he quietly watched acouple push some buttons and buy their tickets, a pair of young men tried to pick a ght with him over a cigarette.
“I said to them, ‘I’ve done more time than you’ve been alive. Don’t make me go back in for smacking you.’” Instead of unleashing his sts, Howett walked away. The choice was a new one for him.
If he’d still been in prison—where he spent 31 years, 10 months and 28days—he would have hit someone, he says. But upon walking out the doors, he decided to leave the jailhouse attitude behind and tackle obstacles with a cool head.
Howett tells his story while standing among tidy rows of lettuce and chard in a greenhouse in Mission. Around him, men work the soil, carry tools with purpose, tend to the plants. “That guy was in for murder,” he says as someone walks by. “Your attitudes, beliefs and values
Your attitudes, beliefs and values are all things you need to change. ey get warped in prison.” — LARRY HOWETT
are all things you need to change. They get warped in prison.”
Howett stayed the course and has made a good life for himself in the 18 years since his release. Having spent nearly half his life in jail for drug-related o ences and armed robbery, he now works as a mentor with long-time inmates transitioning to life outside. Howett meets them for co ee or lunch, joins them for meetings, and occasionally explores new activities with them, such as beekeeping at the Mission farm. He’s not there to judge or reprimand them if they make amistake. He’s there to encourage them when they struggle, to o er hope.
His work is part of are search project based at the Collaborating Centre for Prison Health and Education (CCPHE), located within UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. The John Howard Society is a partner in the project, which aims to gure out how to support men as they transition from prison back into thecommunity, and to determine whether peer mentorship is beneficial to their health. Evaluation of the men’s progress involves monthly follow-ups, surveys and discussion of their health goals. Results are set to be released this month, and the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Ruth Elwood Martin, says one thing was clear from the beginning of the three-year project.
“When they come out [of prison], they are isolated, lonely. They want to connect with men who are doing well. They want to be inspired,” she says.
While it may seem obvious that support and community are key to a healthy life, this is the rst research project of its kind in Canada. Preliminary ndings of a similar study involving women indicate that those with mentors have fewer criminal charges in the rst three months after their release compared to those with no mentor. Other research cited by the CCPHE shows high mortality rates following release from prison, particularly during the rst few weeks of transition. Alienation, stigma, anxiety and depression are common.
Many of the men in the mentorship study have been in prison for decades. They come out not knowing how to use atouch screen or cellphone. Motion-sensor toilets and taps in public washrooms confuse them, Martin says. Filing taxes, getting adriver’s license and nding a doctor can be utterly overwhelming.
Some will commit crimes hoping to be sent back to prison, where they can nd comfort in the familiar, adds Howett. “A lot of guys try to go back because it’s what they know. Nothing frustrates me more.”
But with the help of a mentor— someone who has been out of prison for at least two years and doesn’t use drugs or alcohol—the transition can be less daunting.
The mentoring project hosts regular forums on topics such as smart phones, apps, naloxone kits and cooking. A workshop on juicing was a particularly big hit with the men.
“The men really, really want to be healthy,” Martin says. “If you’ve got a healthy mentor, it’s kind of like having a coach, or a big brother or sister.”
They want to see a bit of themselves in someone who’s made it, she adds.
“It all boils down to hope.”
Happy Birthday, Bauhaus. You just turned two and, coincidentally, are nearing the climax of your formative second act. In screenplay parlance, these should be times of escalating conflict. Yet, to the shock of many, you have not imploded under the volatile antics of your daredevil owner, filmmaker Uwe Boll. In fact, you are busier than ever and steadily improving thanks to suave service, a growing wine cellar (filled with intriguing German and Austrian varietals) and two new talented executive co-chefs—an unconventional arrangement, granted, but we wouldn’t expect anything less from the man who brought us both Blubberella and Blood Rayne.
A short synopsis of the restaurant’s dramatic backstory: the “world’s worst director,” according to the Golden Raspberry Awards, finds himself adrift in Vancouver. He loves the tax-credit incentives that finance his low-budget productions but is unmoved by the dining scene. Pining for the tweezer-plated haute gastronomy of his native Germany, he launches a restaurant-reviewing rampage via YouTube, likening the deconstructed desserts of one establishment to “dog diarrhea.” After fading to black, he returns with a seemingly preposterous plan: to open his own restaurant and make it the city’s best. Okay, but who the hell would want to work there?
Enter Stefan Hartmann, former owner of the one-Michelin-starred Hartmanns in Berlin. Boll pays off the chef’s substantial debts and brings him to Canada. Against all odds, Hartmann makes nice, impresses critics and deftly steers Bauhaus upstream. Then, just when everything appears to be going hunky-dory, Hartmann jumps ship to Tacofino, the Mexican-food chain for gringos. Boll, who is known for feeding actors lines pulled out of the air in the absence of a script, could not have dreamed up a more bizarre plot twist.
Undaunted, Boll promotes David Mueller, the unsung hero who had been quietly punching up Hartmann’s understated precision cooking behind the scenes, while simultaneously hiring Tim Schulte, the star-spangled German souschef who did a short stint at Bauhaus but declined to return from Australia without an exalted title. Together, they create a summer tasting menu that is technically flawless (tissue-thin agnolotti bursting with sun-soaked zucchini and squash;
tuna? And what’s with the beef short rib glazed in sweet barbecue sauce, set on corn purée and bedecked with caramelized popcorn? Quirky? Yes. West Coast? Hmm. German? Nein.
Bauhaus, in the words of another critic, has always been “more Michelin than Munich.” And there is really no need for the restaurant to expose its lederhosen. Customers craving traditional oom-pah-pah will find comfort à la carte in the excellent veal schnitzel (which no longer overlaps the plate but is even more tender, perhaps because it’s pounded with less anger) and a wintry, wild-mushroomy, voluptuously creamy geschnetzeltes (try saying that three times after half a bottle of Burgenland blaufränkisch).
But who are you, Bauhaus? Are you simply a brash European arriviste with silky sous-vide proteins, or do you have something special to say? At the moment, your identity, while delicious, is not defined. If you still want to be the best, you are going to have to resolve that tension and roar a little louder into your revealing third act. exquisite three-way duck—seared breast, confit leg and creamed foie gras). Their food is also immensely Instagrammable (fork-flake salmon in vibrant leek-green vichyssoise, harlequin-dotted with diamond-sculpted veggies; adig-worthy carrot cake buried under chocolate soil, fresh greens and foam).
Sure, the menu is a tad schizophrenic. It’s pretty obvious which chef is responsible for what dish. And some courses stretch the definition of “local.” Can an unfurled sashimi roll garnished with mango and avocado be considered a B.C. dish merely because it’s anchored with albacore
Together, they create a tasting menu that is technically flawless.
Larry Howett emerged from prison nearly 20 years ago to find an unrecognizable world. Now he o ers his insight to support other ex-inmates coping with the stress of adjusting to freedom.
Beef short rib
Agnolotti with zucchini and squash
Co-chefs David Mueller and Tim Schulte