Getting Out of Prison

Posted: September 10, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , , , ,

get out of jailIn my opinion, the most critical time for a man or a woman are the months right after they get out of prison. Many have little money and, of course, they know many easy ways to get money.

These people, who are used to a very regimented life, wake up one morning and no one is telling them what to do. Many spend their first months in a halfway house, which in some cases is good and in some cases is a disaster. As one inmate told me, if you want drugs, go to such and such a halfway house.

How about the parole officer who follows an inmate on the outside? Many of them have way too many cases. In theory, a parole officer on parole officerthe outside is a good idea – someone to care about an inmate, to advise, to be a mentor. What it comes down to, however, is the inmate going to an office, chatting with (or lying to) the parole officer for a few minutes and then leaving.

I had the opportunity to sit in with an inmate and his parole officer on their first interview after the man got out of prison. It was horrible. The man had a lot of things going for him, great self-confidence and an intelligent mind. For an hour the parole officer told him what a scumbag he was, how she was going to send him back to prison, how she knew he was going to screw up, how she knew he was going to go back into crime, on and on for an hour.

I stayed with the case for many months and twice she tried to send the inmate back, but her supervisor overruled her. I suspected she had some kind of personal problem, which she was taking out on the inmate. Sadly, that happens a lot in our prison system.



These months are important. Can’t something be done? Take some staff who have little to do in the prison, retrain them, and retrain them again with some psychology and again with how to help people change.

When someone is on parole, they are already standing behind us in the supermarket. We in the community have to help those who have just been released. I’ve helped many citizens go into prison and help the men in there, but I have failed to get people involved with those who have been released.

Many men and women are afraid of the world that confronts them. They understand prison and know how to live there. Their friends are there. We have to help them live on the outside.

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  1. flynn says:

    You and I Ed, are totally aware of the revolving door system. Sadly it is real and it is part of an undocumented protocol. Statistics claim that it costs the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to keep a prisoner. The reality is over 90% of that, is wages and administration costs. Sadly when prisoners are released, the cards are stacked against them the minute they are out the front gate. An inmate can be sent back, for as little as protesting a POs request, decision or whim for that matter. (deteriorating attitude) They do not help matters much either, by coming to the inmates workplace and making everyone aware that the new employee, is actually still a convicted felon. I can’t stress enough that the silly programs that CSC has adopted, may be slightly helpful for some. But can in no way replace a trade ticket like welding or carpentry or an H2s ticket. Unfortunately the old school version of “You have paid your debt to society,” and are welcomed back as someone who made a mistake…. does not apply these day. So from square one, prisoners who are released from federal prisons might as well be escapees. Because, a huge majority are nothing more than little cash cows and job security for a lack of better terms. It is guaranteed almost scripted, that they will return again and again and again…

  2. Joanne says:

    It is more difficult to help those on conditional release for various reasons. First, there may be an element of fear, as there are no guards to ensure that the released prisoner’s behaviour remains in check. Second, once someone has his freedom, people may worry more about infringing on his privacy. People may believe it is better to give them some space. in some cases, the released prisoner may also give the impression that he does not want any help, perhpas because he believes he should be able to do it on his own. All these factors and more contribute to a sense of social isolation for many of those who are realeased without family or other social support. It makes being out there even more difficult to adjust to.

    As for parole officers. I’ve heard of another poor scenario. There are those who are never or almost never there to meet with the parolee. The parolee goes to the office, tells the clerk he came for his meeting and then he simply leaves. There is no real contact or feeling that there is someone there who can be asked for advice or even practical help (referral to services). They are there only when the parolee does something wrong.

    Yes, it would be very nice if there could be more dedicated, better educated people hired for these positions.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      Right, Joanne, you speak of social isolation. I often question my own work. For years, I’ve tried to bring citizens into the prison to establish connections and to show the citizen what they are paying for. Maybe I should have put all my efforts into helping those who are just released.
      I’m just not sure.

      • Joanne says:

        I’m not sure if you have heard of (or if Chris has heard of) COSA. It stands for circles of support and accountability. I know it runs at least in the Pacific and Prairies regions and I would be surprised if it was not also elsewhere. It is run by the Mennonite Central Committee’s prison ministries. Unfortunately it is only for those released from sex offence sentences. It seems to be very effective and helpful for reintegration. As the name suggests, it is a circle composed of people released from prison and volunteer community members. They give practical support (empolyment advice, resource referral, etc.) as well as a sense of belongingness which is often lacking for those newly released from prison. As far as I know there is nothing akin that is available for non-sex offenders and this is very sad. Now that lifeline has been scrapped it is even more sad, as that program performed some of those functions for long term offenders coming out of prison.

        To answer your question, yes, I do believe there is great merit in concentrating resources toward those coming out of prison. It is a bit more difficult to reach them though. You would have to convince CSC that you are reputable enough to have them send these people your way and of course, then it would be totally up to those being released to contact you. I guess there are ways, like being included in the job and resource fairs that they sometimes have at the prisons. Then appropriate venues and the fact there is no security available may also be issues to consider, as I suggested above.

      • Ed Griffin says:

        Thanks, Joanne. I know a woman who is in COSA. Great work she does.

  3. Hi Ed,
    Of course, you are right, but there is more to be said.
    Another good time to initiate rehabilitative programs is in the first few months after entering prison, when the prisoner is most anxious and regretful about having got there. While this is supported by research, it is ignored by CSC who prefer to let him “settle in”. Settle in to what? You know what he is settling in to. CSC ignores this opportunity, as they do all others, because they are lazy and incompetent.
    Berating prisoners (at every opportunity) has been popular since Samenow, but all of the research i have seen lately says it is exactly wrong. What is needed is to provide the prisoner a way out and away from his past, by encouraging adoption of a self-view that abandons it and replaces it with a law-abiding self-image. Of course Parole Officers (and Parole Board members) love to berate and ridicule and demean and harass prisoners because, in addition to being lazy and incompetent, they are childishly irresponsible, plus they get off on doing this. P.O.s and Board members are fanatic about stomping on “minimizing” and “denying” because they really enjoy running the perpetual incarceration machine; if prisoners make good, what will CSC staff do for fun?
    Parole Officers do not have too many cases! In fact, the usual Annual Report figure in Canada for federal corrections is 20-25 each at any one time (except for Prairie Region, that has “no data”–too embarassed, probably). They can, and do, confront a parolee with three Officers at a time, three times a week, if they feel like it. But since they do no useful work, and are really there, in their own minds and their superiors’, to find an excuse, however flimsy, to slam parolees back into prison, it hardly matters. Abandoning Parole Officers completely would be no loss and would make no difference to either of breaching conditions or committing new crimes.
    Yes, it would be wonderful if others (volunteers or, better, paid) gave some help, particularly since the Parole Officers are so useless: getting ID, back to their families, a job and a place to stay, whatever services are needed, and someone to talk to, all help end reoffending, not that CSC cares.
    There are lots of cost savings available: P.O.s start at $70,000/year, and PBC members, who are all Class 3 or better, start at $700/day including reading and travel for part-time, and $160,000/year for fulltime.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      I like your idea, Chris, of starting a program a few months after a man goes to prison. In fact, it should be in the inmate’s mind more than it is. I know an inmate who organized his own “How to get out of prison” course in a remand centre. He saw many men get out for a few days and then come back. He got them to ask questions like, “Who is picking you up from the prison?” It all starts there

    • Joanne says:

      CSC did have programs that they offered just after people were incarcerated. Unfortunately, these programs would have to have a huge impact on participants who are also trying to find a way to survive in an often scary and hostile environment. I doubt that the programs made any real impact.

      Nevertheless, I do agree that programs right away and continuously woudl be beneficial. I also agree that vocational/educational progams are as important, if not more improtant for some. I strongly believe that CSC programming cannot be one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different and responds differently. Unfortunately, individualized correctional plans require more knowledgeable staff and probably more money.

      • Ed Griffin says:

        Joanne, I agree with you that individualized programs would be best. Yes, as you say, they would be more effective, but also expensive.But more expensive is a relative term, more expensive than what? More expensive than paying for a large, cumbersome bureaucracy that does little?

  4. Heather says:

    It’s disconcerting to read about spiteful, incompetent parole officers. I have to wonder how she keeps a job and why my taxes pay her salary.
    I recently heard Jody Emery on CKNW speaking from outside a prison in MIssissippi. She said Harper is having discussions with a corporation regarding private for profit prisons here in Canada. This worries me.

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