There are people everywhere that we would call undesirable for some reason or another, and ex-convicts are definitely among the people society frowns upon, but what happens when they are released from prison and have to come back into our communities? What help is out there for convicted felons who have paid their debt to society.
For as long as there have been laws, there have been people to break them. People steal, people kill, people rape, and in today’s society those people are punished. We have secure facilities to keep criminal offenders in once they have been found guilty by a fair trial. The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is the government section in charge of these secure prison facilities.
Their website states that their mission is to “contribute to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control.” (www.csc-scc.gc.ca) The CSC operates fifty-four prisons within Canada, of which only six are for female offenders (www.csc-scc.gc.ca). There are plans for another two prisons to be built, one of which will be in Windsor-Essex County (www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca).
They also work in conjunction with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correction Services (MCSCS) to run and supervise Parole Offices within Canadian communities. Parole Offices are one of the links between released offenders and the criminal justice system. They keep track of released inmates in their community including, but not limited to, their addresses, employment, community service, and vacations. There is a parole office in most communities, including Windsor.
When an offender is released from prison, he or she faces a unique problem when it comes to functioning in society. The offender, who has been removed from the rest of society for so long, often faces anxiety in confronting a new world and discrimination because of the fact that they are former inmates. People are often unwilling to hire offenders who have not been granted a pardon out of the fear planted in their brains by the media.
In effect, although people feel that they are protecting themselves, their property, their businesses, and their customers, they are isolating people who, much like themselves, need work. If a released offender cannot find a steady structure to be a part of, (s)he is more likely to find him or herself in a correctional facility again.
There are many ways that offenders can be helped when it comes to successful re-integration. Within the prison structure itself there are often jobs and opportunities for retraining. This is particularly important in juvenile detention centres.
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(Courtesy of the Correctional Service of Canada website – www.csc-scc.gc.ca)
The MCSCS offers a wide range of programs to their offenders including: anger and aggression control, anti-criminal thinking programs, job-readiness training, literacy training, parenting skills lessons, sex offender programs, etc. (www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca). They also offer a program that they call Trilcor Industries in which offenders can work while they are in prison to provide service while gaining some of the skills they will need for re-integration into society.
This is run by the Government of Ontario and the products of the labour go to governments, schools, charities, and correctional facilities. The offenders are actually responsible for making all license plates for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca). This wonderful program is for offenders still held as inmates. What is done for those offenders who are released is quite different.
There are support programs available but they are more easily available if an offender resides in a “half way house”. A half way house is “a residence for individuals after release from institutionalization, as for mental disorder, drug addiction, or criminal activity, that is designed to facilitate their readjustment to private life” as defined by Merriam-Webster (www.merriam-webster.com/). The License to Clean program is run through some half way houses in Ontario including the St. Leonard’s House in Windsor.
This program provides employment for released offenders and people suffering from mental illness who may be unable to find a job due to discrimination. The program puts offenders in contact with community employers that do local cleaning/clean-ups as a way for the offenders to gain work experience and become accustomed to a more normal life. (www.stleonardshouse.com)
Although the media has put a very frightening picture of the ex-convict in our minds, these people face the same anxiety we do about going to work and getting out into the world. In fact, they probably face more of it due to the situation they are coming from.
But help is here; there are programs to help offenders upon their release and halfway houses to help re-socialize them. What has to come from us is the mentality that maybe the man who went to jail for stealing a loaf of bread isn’t going to steal from our companies.