A convict faces several critical times, arrest, first time in jail, sentencing, first time in a penitentiary, parole hearings and release. I think this last is the worst. When I worked at Surrey PreTrial, I had the men and women write out what they were going to do on their first day out of jail. I asked them to be as specific as possible, i.e. who was going to pick them up from jail, which bus were they going to take to where, and what were they going to eat on their first meal out and with whom.

I think release back into the community is the hardest time of all. The man has no money and several good ways of getting some money occur to him. I worked with two very creative men in prison. When he got out, Mike decided he was finished with the crime game. However, several enticing, money-raising opportunities came to him. He turned them down and faced poverty. The other man, call him Roger, was used to the good life before his sentence. When he got out, he couldn’t see himself living below the poverty line. He went back into the drug game, not using drugs, but selling them.

One sad night in Vancouver, a rival gang discovered that he was throwing a big party to honor his engagement. Somebody reported the location to the rival gang and they showed up at the party, guns blazing. Roger died that night. What if someone had put him on the right path? I tried, but failed. What if the prison system sent him out the door, with a promise of money if he fulfilled certain conditions?

The parole system makes a convict visit their parole officer at least once a week. My experience of trying to work with parole officers was pretty negative. One felt that only he could help the inmate, so he shared no information with me. The other threatened Mike that he would be sent back to prison the first time he did anything wrong. This parole officer assumed everything Mike did was about selling drugs.

The John Howard Society (http://www.johnhoward.ca/about/) tries to help men at this critical point.

  1. Chrissy says:

    I lived on the streets and was involved in drugs and crime when I went to jail, so I went back to the streets,drugs and crime when I got out of jail. It’s hard to change, when nothing has changed.

  2. My only experience is with the CSC (federal prisons) parole officers, who are supposed to work with inmates to prepare them for release (the several forms of parole, the Conditional Release that is supposed to comprise the last third of their sentence and final release), and to assist and monitor them in the community. I was astounded at how useless and, indeed, counter-productive they were. Getting yourself re-oriented and re-established after years in prison, with no employment and probably no safe place to live, is extremely difficult and fraught with peril. The parole officers (whose training for this work, if any, usually takes all of ten days) made little or no effort to assist released inmates (they constantly reminded me to refer to them as “offenders”) but, instead seemed determined to defeat and destroy every constructive attempt at self-rehabilitation. Canada has an extraordinarily high rate of recidivism and the parole officers gave every indication of trying to push it higher.

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