Last week I went to the book launch for Releasing Hope, which is a compilation of stories by many of the same people featured in its prequel Arresting Hope, released 5 years ago. One of the compilers, Dr. Ruth Elwood Martin, is a close friend and part of our Tenth Kits community. She is a family physician who has worked in BC’s provincial correctional centres since 1994. Most notably, Ruth has championed the cause of incarcerated women for many years, focusing first as a doctor on their health and well-being and then empowering these women to see themselves as having potential, as being valued, and encouraging them to gradually take steps which are life-changing. For example, she led a legal challenge that went all the way to BC’s Supreme Court to ensure that women could keep their babies while serving their sentences in prison - best for mother and baby alike, as well as for the other inmates.
Releasing Hope and Arresting Hope both tell the stories of women from many sectors of society, from during their incarceration to being released back into the community. Some stories are sad and tragic, while many are hopeful, inspiring, and redemptive.
The book launch was a very moving experience, as women read aloud their own segments of this book, re-telling their story, often with tears flowing… mostly tears of gratitude that they made it this far, while some of their friends did not. I was inspired by the courage, the strength of these women, and their persistence in the journey towards healing and health. Many have gone on to further study in order to better help others, some serving in social work positions and others volunteering to walk alongside women who are currently being released by helping them find clothing, housing, jobs… in short, encouraging them not to fall back into an addictive lifestyle but rather to move on and heal. From this book, we are encouraged to press on, to cross social divides, to reach those on the margins, and to foster health and healing as we walk with others.
As inaugural director of the UBC Collaborating Centre for Prison Health and Education, Ruth introduced the unique concept of engaging women in prison, prison staff, and academics in participatory health research to address concerns raised by the women themselves. This is an ongoing project. She has won awards for her work in women’s prisons and she remains a passionate advocate and faithful friend to many women featured in these books. This, I am certain, is an outflow of her love for Jesus and her commitment to following him as lives are being redeemed.
You can purchase the book by clicking here.