The local Anglican priest does her best to comfort prisoners, holding several church services at the jail on Sundays, and counselling prisoners on several other days throughout the week.
“To tell you the truth, God called me to it, or I wouldn't be here,” she said. “That's all I know. I have compassion for them, I have understanding for them and I will try to help them in any way I can.”
On two occasions, though, Rollins has done something which she said was “very difficult.” She accompanied jail officials as they broke the news to family members of prisoners who have committed suicide behind bars.
“I feel it's a privilege to be there to sort of give them a hug, because maybe I've talked to that inmate a few days before,” she said.
“Maybe they've shared things with me, and so I'm in a place where I can say 'I know they loved you and they just thrived so much on your being able to visit them.' It's good to be able to bring that comfort to the family.”
Rollins was in front of the Sudbury Jail with about 20 other people Aug. 9 as part of a ceremony in honour of Prisoners' Justice Day, which commemorates the men and women who have died from unnatural deaths inside prisons and penitentiaries.
The priest led the participants in prayer, a group of musicians played hymns, and a drumming group from the N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre played an honour song.
Paper lanterns decorated by female prisoners participating in an Elizabeth Fry Society – Sudbury chapter's arts and crafts program were also placed on the steps outside the jail.
“The women created these bags, and they will be out here in front of the jail from now until late tomorrow evening, and they will be all lit up.”
John Rimore, executive director of the John Howard Society of Sudbury, said the official date for Prisoners' Justice Day is actually Aug. 10.
“We're commemorating it today because men and women behind bars have asked us to reserve Aug. 10 for them,” he said. “It's a day where inmates fast, refuse to leave their cells and pray. So it is a prisoners- and inmates-led initiative, and we adhere to their wishes.”
Prisoners' Justice Day was started after a prisoner named Eddie Nalon committed suicide in 1974 by slashing his inner elbow, severing all the veins and arteries, while in the segregation unit of the Millhaven Maximum Security Prison.
On the one-year anniversary of Nalon's death, prisoners at Millhaven refused to work, went on a one-day hunger strike and held a memorial service, even though it meant a stint in solitary confinement.
One the second anniversary of his death, a one-day hunger strike was held in prisons across Canada. Prisoners' Justice Day is now commemorated around the world.
Rimore said the rate of violence in jails — including suicide and homicide — is much higher than in the general population.
“Our community should be very concerned about these situations and issues, because most people who are incarcerated do leave the institution,” he said.
“They serve their time and are released. If they live in a situation where there is violence, they bring that violence with them. It's very difficult to leave that violence when you come back to the community to reintegrate, to become a positive member of our society.”