Getting out of Prison

Posted: March 30, 2013 by Ed Griffin in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

As we saw last week, the critical moment in an inmate’s life is getting out of jail. The young man we saw last week was greeted by some very negative, one-sided press.

I was amazed that remand centres did not have programs for getting out of jail. They simply said goodbye. Yet it is of vital importance as to who picks a person up. Will it be a family member or a gang contact? What will the inmate do on their first day out of prison? An inmate I knew saw this problem and set up his own program to help men adapt on their first days out of jail.

Other inmates get out after long stretches of imprisonment. Society is often a puzzle to them.

The statistic tells it all. In Canada, one half of the inmates return to prison for one reason or another. That’s a terrible indictment of our prison system.

What is to be done? We ordinary people cannot go to prison to help, but we can help in the community. And that’s where help is needed. Of course, we have to do that work with the knowledge and support of the person’s parole officer.

  1. Correctional services have many tools they use to support prisoners in the hours, days, weeks and months following release. In the federal system, few or none are supposed to be released at the end of their sentence, instead they are to have been on probation or Statutory Release for months before that. It is before (in the institution) and during this period (in the community) that staff are supposed to be doing those things to assure enduring desistance. Unfortunately, the Correctional Service of Canada, which claims to be doing all of the things specified in their Act and their regulations and their Commissioner’s Directives, doesn’t, because their staff hasn’t a clue how to do it–it seems to be a prerequisite for employment at CSC and their is no training to improve their non-existent abilities–nor, in any case, can they be bothered either in the institutions or on probation/release. Few prisoners receive any anti-recidivism programming in an effective way, even though these programs exist and have been proven to substantially reduce recidivism in other jurisdictions. CSC has not contracted for nearly enough beds in secure facilities, even though the conditions of probation and release require this for nearly all prisoners. Institutional and community Parole Officers refuse to use the Assessment Tools prescribed to do their jobs, and they provide little or no service of any kind, otherwise. They rely entirely on a surveillance-and-suspension (back to prison) approach which minimizes any demand on themselves (quite a lot of it is done for them by the police). The major Canadian study of their activities concluded that they were “almost entirely ineffective” in any constructive way. Another author, having examined their approach, noted that “We could not have designed a more dysfunctional system had we set out to do so.” CSC lies about all of this in their Annual Reports, of course, claiming to be doing what they are directed to do, but the statistics (and the Annual Reports from the Office of the Correctional Investigator) make it clear that CSC is worse than useless in this regard.
    No question that immediately post-release is critical, and housing and employment are essential. Release prisoners often have no ID, which they need for nearly everything and which is increasingly hard to get. Getting a Status Card for aboriginals, for example, now takes months and requires a number of other documents, which they don’t have, either. Getting a bank account, now almost universally required for the direct deposit of wages from legal income. is also virtually impossible. Every time the paroled or released prisoner turns around, there is something else that must be done that he or she can’t do, and CSC staff refuse to do. And, when it comes to the end of the sentence, there is no support or assistance of any kind whatever.
    Probably John Howard/Elizabeth Fry provide some help; an interested party would do worse volunteering or donating there. However, Canadian taxpayers put billions into the Correctional Service of Canada, for which they get people locked in cells and nothing else, except, almost inevitably, more crime, since, in the words of one study, “they all come back”. Crime is the one thing they can do, thanks to CSC.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      I say this every time, Chris, I wish you were wrong but you’re not. You correct me about the time for intervention — when they are still incarcerated. Thank you. And you add some dramatic comments at the end about getting a bank account etc.

  2. Hi Ed,
    You could certainly be forgiven for forgetting the necessity (and success, in other jurisdictions) of institutional programs, since they are effectively absent from Canadian penitentiaries. Thanks to CSC’s laziness, incompetence, malice, and irresponsibility, nothing of significance starts, or ends, there.

  3. Ed, talking about the problems people encounter when they are released from goal, have you seen the unpretentious little Finnish film called LETTERS TO FATHER JACOB, which tells the story of a woman, pardoned after spending years in goal for life, who is sent to look after a blind priest in a tiny little village? it’s worth seeing if you can hold of it, and barely 90 minutes long.

  4. Joanne says:

    I am involved with a support group called Caring For Families. It is intended to help family members of those who are justice system invovled survive the upheaval in their lives. It has the added benefit of providing information to the families of those in prison about the importance of keeping a connection and the importance of providing support without enabling once the family member returns to the community. Family is really the best source of support for those who have found themsleves on the wrong side of the law.

    Oftentimes it is shame that leads people to continue committing crime, as they believe there are no other avenues open to them now that they have become disgraced individuals. Family can often make this feeling worse, or they can provide the support needed to get people back on their feet and gain the self-confidence they need to become pro-social individuals who are an asset to the community.

    Family members often feel the shame as stongly if not more strongly than those who are incarcerated. Shame is a very destructive emotion. Families need support to feel confident in offering support to their incarcerated loved ones. Changing societal attitudes about crime and its causes and about the cycle of crime can go a long way toward reducing shame and putting everyone on the right road.

  5. ex prisoner says:

    it is thanks to the support of my friends and family that I am still out of prison. it is essential that you can get positive support to stay outvof prison

  6. Great information. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve bookmarked it for later!

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