Posts Tagged ‘CSC’

 

volunteer

Call her Gertrude. She’s from a European country and even though she’s been in Canada for thirty years, she still has a slight accent. Gertrude is—make that – was – the perfect CSC volunteer. She treated the men and the staff with respect. Everyone who met her knew that she cared about them. Inmates knew that and staff knew that.

She was formally trained as a volunteer and gave up an evening to attend the necessary course. Her husband and high school children agreed with her effort to help prisoners. In the 2011 she paid about $3,000 of her own money to produce a book of the inmate’s writing

Volunteers are a big part of CSC’s mission, to connect the prisons with the community.Community

A year ago at this time, Gertrude attended one of my creative writing classes. She didn’t say much in class, but people could tell by her looks and her clapping that she appreciated what the men were reading.

When she got home after the class, she dropped a note to two of the men who read that day in class. It was part Christmas Card and part support letter.

In January she returned to the prison to attend another class. Her badge was taken away and she was ‘fired’ as a volunteer. The only explanation given was that she had broken a rule by writing to the two inmates.

I polled all our volunteers. No one had heard of such a rule. On reflection, one volunteer said she understood, nothing in/nothing out must mean letters, too.

Note that Gertrude was not warned, “Don’t do that again,” she was just fired.

I couldn’t believe it. She asked for a hearing and if I had been smart, I would have gone with her. She’s one of those gentle, kind people who agree with everything you say. She figures out what you want her to say and she says it.

“Did you know it was wrong to mail a letter to an inmate?” she was asked. She paused and looked at the person across the desk from her. “Oh yes, I knew it was wrong.”

Nonsense. Not one volunteer I talked to knew this. I know Gertrude and I’m sure she never gave it a thought that it was wrong to mail a supportive note/Christmas card to an inmate.

Of course, her statement confirmed her suspension. I suggested we appeal to the regional office and I said I would go with her. A date was set for us and then Gertrude backed out. She said, “I’m happy in my life. I have many interests and I don’t need this controversy. Just forget the hearing.”

Of course it’s occurred to me that this rule of NO mail to inmates isn’t a very good one. It contradicts the key tenets of CSC.

I grieve for Gertrude, and like so many things with CSC, you just have to swallow it. Inmates swallow a lot more than I do, if that’s any consolation to me.

Images courtesy of:

  • shileche.wordpress.com
  • vencolibrary.org

Another blog from a man in prison in the Fraser Valley Area, one we’ve heard from before. He’s a thoughtful man and a leader in his prison:

New bulletins put out on the units a couple of days ago explained more of the changes that are coming as a result of Bill C-10 (Harper’s crime bill). The impacts of the euphemistically titled “Safe Streets and Communities Act” are going to be felt here for some time.

Prisons for CanadiansWith all the talk that I hear on the unit, or complaining to be more accurate, I don’t hear many men saying that they are done with crime or with drugs, because of the new mandatory minimums and other draconian measures being put in play by the Harper government.

Why, you might ask, would people not make an immediate decision to change their behaviour in the face of these harsher consequence for their actions? There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is that most of us don’t plan on being caught. We labour under the delusion that we will get away with it forever or that we only got caught because of chance, an informant, bad luck, etc.  What a lot of men don’t face up to is the fact that they are in jail as the result of their own actions.

Another stumbling block to the idea that harsher sentences are going to act as a deterrent is that this doesn’t take into account the desperation of an addict who will disregard the thought of consequences, due to their addiction. For these offenders there has to be another way to engage them in their own rehabilitation. Increased sentences – where  they will spend even more time in a toxic environment – isn’t going to do it.

In the Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator for 2010-11, it was reported that the CSC (the prison administration in Canada) allocated a mere 1.8% of its planned spending on nationally recognized correctional programming. The government is so concerned about public safety that only 1.8% of the corrections budget goes towards the actual rehabilitation of offenders. I could hardly believe the number myself, and I live within the system. I, for one, think that there should be more money spent on all types of programming than the pittance that is being spent on rehabilitation right now.

Our government has allowed itself to be deluded into thinking that locking people up and throwing away the key is the answer to crime. I hope that the public can see past this crazy idea and call on the government to rethink the way it thinks about crime.

Images courtesy of:

  • expresspardons.com
  • occupyfredericton.wordpress.com