Sask. inmate who's spent 22 years behind bars pens book for son

Mitchell Moise says what started out as a letter to his son soon turned into a book.

'I have caused a lot of harm, irreparable harm, to people and society,' says author

Mitchell Moise poses with his newly published book, Letters to Cody — The Longest Journey. It discusses the lessons he's learned in his 39 years of life, 22 which have been spent in custody. (CBC)

Writing a book isn't an easy feat. 

Mitchell Moise started by writing letters to his son, but the letters turned into a book called Letter to Cody — The Longest Journey

What sets Moise and his book apart is that the book was written from jail. It is for an audience of one — his son Cody — with whom Moise no longer has a relationship. 

Moise began writing while he was in segregation at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert.  

There's never an end to what you can share with your child in regards to empowering them.- Mitchell Moise

"It started when one day I said, 'I'm going to write a letter to my son,'" Moise explained. 

"It began with one page. One page turned into another ... I just continued to write the letter. There's never an end to what you can share with your child in regards to empowering them."

Escaping abuse through a life of crime

Moise is from Muskowekwan First Nation, about 140 km northeast of Regina.

He said he's been the victim of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. He started drinking alcohol as a child and later became involved with gangs. 

Moise's problems with the law began in elementary school. He spent time in a youth facility and was sent to a federal prison for the first time when he was 16-years-old. 

Moise discusses his newly published book while in handcuffs at Regina's Correctional Centre. He is awaiting the outcome of a Dangerous Offender hearing. (CBC)

He's now 39, and by his own account has spent about 22 of those years behind bars.

Moise was found guilty of attempted murder in 2000 and was declared a dangerous offender in 2012. But that designation was appealed, set aside, and a new hearing started in 2016. The judgment will be handed down mid-December.

Writing became a way to reach out to his son and escape the reality of jail. Moise said it has been a therapeutic process. 

"I found it somewhat uplifting. The story and the telling of the story helped me forget where I was for a time," said Moise. 

Man once declared Dangerous Offender condemns acts of violence

He is now in Regina's Correctional Centre awaiting the outcome of the Dangerous Offender hearing. 

At times, it's so crowded Moise said it's difficult to find a place to write. The cells are full and desks are unavailable, but when he can write, he does. Sometimes that means sitting on the floor and using his bed as a desk. 

Moise received encouragement along the way from a former university instructor. He had taken a sociology class through Athabasca University while in the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. He sent some of his writing to his former instructor, Rochelle Sato.

The telling of the story helped me forget where I was for a time.- Mitchell Moise

She suggested he think about writing a book.

Letter to Cody is the 162-page result, containing poems and letters focused on explaining Moise's past to his son, while offering advice so that his son doesn't make the same mistakes he has made. Sato wrote the introduction to the book and helped get it published. 

Moise says he hopes his book will help others — especially his only son — learn from his mistakes. (CBC)

While the book was written for his 19-year-old son, Moise knows that others may read his book, including his victims.

"When I share my story, I can't glorify and I don't want to minimize. With that in mind, I've had to keep the victims of my past crimes and keep my behaviour and my actions in mind, because I have caused a lot of harm, irreparable harm, to people and society," he said.  

The biggest message he wants his son to take away is to break the cycle of violence.

"There's no situation that requires you to use violence and for that reason you must be consciously aware at all time to not to use violence, and to choose not to use violence." 

About the Author

Sharon Gerein

Sharon Gerein is the producer for CBC Radio One's The Afternoon Edition in Saskatchewan.,,,,,,,,,,