Member Spotlight- Pam Young

Spotlight Interview Questions:

How/Why have you come to be involved in this work and what does your current role look like?

I have come to be involved in this work because of my lived experience with incarceration. I spent 25 years caught in the revolving door of prison. In 2009 I reconnected with peers, who I had spent time with in prison, that were doing amazing work in the community. I decided to get involved and it was life changing for me. It gave me purpose and hope, I felt valued and once I began my journey of supporting others who shared my lived experience, I found my passion and it profoundly changed my life.

What have you learned from doing this work and how have you changed, if at all? 

I have learned that there is hope for change in the system. It’s very gradual, but it can happen. I have also learned that my voice is valuable and through sharing my experiences I can help create change for those still stuck in the system. 

What are some points about this work you want people to understand in terms of expectations, or assumptions they might hold, being that this is pretty much uncharted territory we are venturing through?

I want people to know that people with lived experience of addiction and incarceration are human beings like everyone else. They deserve to be treated with dignity and the community needs to be more accepting and willing to welcome them back to the community. If I didn’t have people who believed in me when I first decided I was done with addiction and the revolving door of prison, I don’t think I would have made it. We need to help give people hope by accepting them and not judging them. It’s difficult for anyone to make their way back to the community successfully without some support or at least one person who believes in them.

What would you like people to know about the overarching ideas or implications of this work and what are some specific things you are working on or planning to work on?

I see this work as a huge opportunity to hear from the people with lived experience on what changes they think need to be made within the justice system to better their lives and give them a better chance at overcoming the obstacles that keep them trapped inside a broken system. I plan to continue to be the voice for those who have yet to find their own voice and to encourage more people with lived incarceration experience to speak up and join initiatives that focus on finding ways for people to better their lives during and post incarceration.

How do you take care of yourself to maintain your ability to perform this work?

It’s important as someone who is supporting others that I find a balance in my own life that helps me to keep my own mind healthy and take time for self-care. I use grounding exercises, meditation, spending time with my grandchildren or even crocheting to relax and shake off the emotions that often build up after listening to other people’s experiences, trauma or just dealing with everyday stress. 

 What would you recommend for people wanting to become involved in this type of work?

I recommend that more and more people should get involved in this type of work. I have met some amazing people who genuinely care about people with lived incarceration but there is truly not enough of us. If we could involve more people in the community, we would have greater outcomes. Most importantly though we must listen to the voices of lived experience.

Do you have any special moments or thoughts from your time with this work that you would like to share? 

My most special moments throughout my 11 years of doing this type of work are the successes I witness, whether it be someone going to recovery for the first time, keeping their appointments and avoiding being breached, going from homelessness to housed and working, or staying out of prison for multiple days, months or years. There are so many things that make my commitment to this work worth-while. Most importantly though is feeling like I am making a difference in someone’s life.

First Nations land acknowledegement

We acknowledge that the UBC Point Grey campus is situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm.

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