Posts Tagged ‘release’

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 ( tries to help men at this critical point.

Helping inmates is not like other causes such as helping flood victims or cancer sufferers. I don’t know of a single Hollywood star or singer who signs up to help inmates. This is especially surprising since some of them were inmates. I’m thinking of a well-known comedian who did time.

John HowardSo who helps inmates? The John Howard Society for one. They help men in prison and especially when they get out of prison, a very critical time for an inmate. In my community they run a half way house that’s a model for others. Management of the house works to keep the neighbors informed and supportive. The John Howard Society takes care of the bursary that I established to help inmates with further education. (If you’d like to donate, here’s the link The bursary is for men or women in prison.

John Howard was a great prison reformer who lived from 1726 to 1790 in England.

The organization that helps female inmates in Canada is called the Elizabeth Fry Society. Elizabeth Fry Society   They operate a very quiet and successful halfway house for women in my immediate neighborhood.

Both organizations struggle for funds, but it’s in the self-interest of the community to support them. They’re just trying to make things safe for us.

out of the joint


Images courtesy of: