Letter: Prison chaplains help inmates, leading to safer streets

18 Oct, 2012

I believe in justice. I believe in restorative justice — not a punitive justice that continually strips prisoners of hope and possibility, but a justice that works with inmates toward their responsibility, recovery and rehabilitation into society. Instead of cutting the human resources within our federal prisons, we need to be strengthening those programs which have a positive impact upon the lives of the inmates and, as a consequence, make for safer streets.

Photograph by: Lars Hagberg

Kingston Penitentiary: Public Safety Minister Vic Toews recently announced that contracts for part-time prison chaplains would no longer be awarded, and that the remaining full-time chaplains would serve prisoners of all faiths.

It has been my privilege to serve as a part-time chaplain within Corrections Canada over the past three years. In that time, I have come to know men, not merely as “criminals,” but as human beings who, like myself, are striving to find forgiveness, hope and meaning in their lives. These are not luxury items for the few, but necessities for us all.

We all need people in our lives who will listen carefully, encourage us, and challenge us to grow into fullness of life. Conversion of life happens not by “locking you up and throwing away the key,” but rather when we are treated with respect empathy and care.

The continual gutting of chaplaincy services in our federal penitentiaries (along with all the volunteers who come in under their auspices) will only hinder a justice that seeks to restore those who have hurt, into those who might be healed.

Written by: Our Prison Chaplain Rev. Canon Tim Smart

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