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I am writing on behalf of Aidan Cromwell.

I met Aidan in June, 2013 when he wrote to


me after reading an article in the Chronicle Herald where I spoe about woring with
incarcerated people as a priorit! during m! term as "oet #aureate of the Halifa$ %egional
&unicipalit!. Aidan contacted me seeing ad'ice on his poetr!. I was struc b! the courage and
agenc! he had in reaching out to recei'e criticism and help with his writing. (e built a strong
relationship through Aidan sharing his poetr!, and communicating about his e$periences and
feelings. In addition to mentoring Aidan in poetr!, part of the ad'ice I ga'e him as a poet was to
increase his 'ocabular!, to read the dictionar!, and to pa! attention to news and to read an!thing
a'ailable. Aidan has taen this ad'ice seriousl!, and has engaged in a directed reading program
through contact with facult! at )alhousie *ni'ersit!. Ha'ing taught in uni'ersities +)alhousie,
*ni'ersit! of ,ing-s College and Acadia *ni'ersit!. since 200/, I can attest that Aidan is
engaged in reading and critical wor at a uni'ersit! le'el, including reading man! difficult wors
of political and social science. He is committed once in federal prison to taing educational
programming, and with the correct supports I belie'e he shows great academic potential.
)espite suffering from A)H), Aidan has been able mae progress with his studies under
difficult circumstances, and I belie'e the focus he has shown, particularl! in his writing,
demonstrates a !oung man determined to o'ercome challenges. I ha'e grown to now and care
for Aidan not onl! through his poetr!, but through letters and 'isits, and I ha'e seen his
determination to change his life positi'el! and to tae accountabilit!.
0ince 2010, I ha'e been a facult! member in the African Canadian 1ransition 2ption
+formerl! the African Canadian 1ransition "rogram. at the 3o'a 0cotia Communit! College.
1he mandate of this program is to support African 3o'a 0cotian learners in achie'ing their high
school diploma. (e fre4uentl! wor with learners who ha'e come to us through contact with the
5ustice s!stem or who ha'e been pre'iousl! incarcerated. (e partner with the Association of
6lac 0ocial (orers to pro'ide education in the conte$t of recogni7ing the particular barriers
and challenges that face raciali7ed learners in the education s!stem. As an Africentric educator, I
recogni7e the trauma Aidan has e$perienced due in particular to the suicide of his brother when
he was 13, and the 'arious challenges his famil! encountered in recei'ing help and support for
this trauma. At the same time as Aidan has encountered man! of the s!stematic and social
obstacles historic to the African 3o'a 0cotian communit!, he has taen significant steps to
empower himself through education, writing, and building strong support networs. He has a
strong and supporti'e famil!, and through his poetr! he has engaged artists, academics and the
wider African 3o'a 0cotian communit!. (ith these lo'ing and supporti'e foundations in place,
Aidan has the tools for reintegration and rehabilitation.
As a result of his initial contact with me, Aidan became connected to programming that I
am acti'e in as a mentor through In &! 2wn 8oice +I&28,. a program for at9ris !outh that
uses arts programming and :telling !our stor!; to build health! identities, teach !outh to
communicate in constructi'e wa!s, and to pro'ide support and programming to !outh from high9
ris communities to help pre'ent contact with the 5ustice s!stem and rehabilitate those within
institutions. I&28 is partnered with numerous communit! and 5ustice organi7ations, including
the Halifa$ %egional "olice. I ha'e mentored with I&28 since 200<, and ha'e wored both
through I&28 and through 'arious communit!, literac! and ad'ocac! organi7ations to present
programming in 3o'a Institution, 0pringhill and (ater'ille, as well as collaborating with
Inside=2ut to wor with women in >rand 8alle! Institute. Aidan too responsibilit! for writing
to the program director, 0oba7 6en5amin about taing part in whate'er wa!s possible in our
programming.
I cannot spea strongl! enough about the impact Aidan has had on the !outh in'ol'ed in
our program. As part of our programming, we run a radio show called ?outh 3ow@ %adio on
C,)* where we gi'e !oung people from high9'iolence, raciali7ed, and marginali7ed
communities an opportunit! to spea about the e$periences and circumstances that affect their
li'es. Aidan has participated in this programming b! sharing his poetr!, as well as speaing
about his e$periences as an incarcerated person. His willingness to spea honestl! about his own
choices and beha'ior, as well as his openness in sharing his feelings through his poetr! has made
a serious difference in the li'es of the !outh who participate and listen. (hile we as mentors can
send !oung people messages about maing health! choices, a'oiding 'iolence, completing
education and building positi'e relationships, to hear these messages from someone who has
been there, and is pa!ing the conse4uences for his choices has immeasurable impact on !outh.
1he !oung people highl! respect Aidan due to his honest! about the mistaes he has made and
his accountabilit! for his actions, and he has been able to acti'el! shift their narrati'es about
'iolence and imprisonment. 1hese !outh are surrounded b! media messages that fre4uentl!
glorif! 'iolence, incarceration and :gangster; life, so to hear from a !oung man their own age
who shares their bacground, challenges and life e$periences about the realit! of these choices
and to ha'e the positi'e choices the! are maing reinforced has made a huge impression upon
them. (e 'alue Aidan-s contributions to the program highl! because he has been able to spea
to the !outh in :real; wa!s and to inter'ene with them to change their ideas about manhood,
'iolence and gangster=prison culture.
As well as impacting the !outh in the program, Aidan-s in'ol'ement in the radio show has had a
tremendous effect on the other inmates. 1his remarable feature of the show has been
commented upon b! man! in the communit!, as well as b! the staff at C,)*. 1hrough Aidan-s
influence, man! of the inmates ha'e been moti'ated to write their own poetr!. 2ne e$perience
that particularl! affected those of us in'ol'ed in the program was an inmate who goes b! the
name of :Casper,; who read a poem taling about how much he respects Aidan, how Aidan-s
commitment to writing has influenced him, and how Aidan-s focus on positi'e change has
affected his own writing and wa!s of communicating. Aidan has encouraged these inmates not
onl! to write, but specificall! to share honestl! about their e$periences rather than following the
trends of :gangster rap.; Inmates ha'e written about their regret for life choices, their desire to
change their li'es for siblings, their changed attitudes to women, as well as writing sincerel!
about the social circumstances such as fatherlessness, addiction and po'ert! that impacted their
li'es. &an! of the callers from the 5ail ha'e :shouted out; Aidan and testified to his
encouragement and inspiration, including inmates from other ranges who ha'e been affected b!
hearing this wor. 0eeing him tae part in positi'e acti'it! is maing a difference for them as
well and has gi'en them positi'e goals to focus on. I also want to emphasi7e that while in itself
writing and sharing poetr! is a constructi'e goal, perhaps more significantl!, in encouraging
poetr! that speas honestl! about feelings and assesses life decisions, this wor is helping
inmates communicate, channel their anger and frustrations in positi'e wa!s, and hold themsel'es
responsible for their choices and decisions while encouraging transformation.
In Aidan-s own poetr!, he speas about his feelings of remorse, his desire for forgi'eness and his
determination for change. His poems mae clear that he taes full responsibilit! for his actions,
and that he is willing to do whate'er it taes to mae reparation. His wor has been recogni7ed
for its 4ualit!, honest!, and significance, and was featured in Aulbright 0cholar Buanda
Johnson-s recent show :6e!ond the 8eil of the 0orrow 0ongs.; 1his is a testament to the 4ualit!
of his wor, as well as the impact it is ha'ing on the communit! and be!ond. His poetr! has also
been submitted to :1he C
th
(all,; a program through the &ichaelle Jean Aoundation that sees to
address incarceration and 5ustice for African Canadian and Indigenous !outh. 6! telling his
stor! through art, Aidan is helping members of these communities engage in difficult
con'ersations around our !outh and how we can support, help and inter'ene with them in the
5ustice s!stem.
1hroughout the time I ha'e nown Aidan, I ha'e been impressed b! his determination to see
positi'e change and transformation in his life. He has consistentl! reached out for help and
support, taing responsibilit! to build connections and support networs that can assist him in
maing change in his life. He has told us that his short term goals include completing his
education, getting a 5ob in the prison, and taing part in programming. His long term goal is to
change his life and to mae a positi'e impact on !outh. I belie'e that these goals show his
commitment to rehabilitation, and his understanding of the hard wor that goes into maing
these changes. He is still 'er! !oung, and I belie'e his actions while awaiting trial and
sentencing show that he taes his circumstances 'er! seriousl! and that he is highl! determined
to be a positi'e and producti'e force. I belie'e his actions show that he is willing and able to
mae change, and it is m! hope that his sentence recogni7es this commitment.
1han !ou for !our time and attention,
Dl Jones
"oet #aureate, Halifa$ %egional &unicipalit!
"rofessor, )epartments of (omen-s and >ender 0tudies and Dnglish, Acadia *ni'ersit!
"rofessor, Creati'e (riting and Dnglish, )alhousie *ni'ersit!.