RE: Temporary Release of Inmates Debated

30 Jul, 2013

In response to the article by the Montreal Gazette.  To view the actual letter posted on the Montreal Gazette website: click here

There is much to say in this matter of temporary releases for inmates of our federal correctional facilities, both escorted and unescorted, ETA and UTA. That some are escorted and others not is a major distinction. The concern expressed by the Public Safety communications director about “parole through the back door” is misleading, and another thrust in the game of manipulation of public opinion. ETAs are short, and by definition, the inmate is always under the monitoring eye of an accompanying escort, a prison guard or a trained volunteer. The inmates who benefit from these outings have earned the privilege in the painstaking assessments and evaluations constantly at play within our correctional facilities.

As coordinator of a community project which welcomes escorted visits by those for whom it is deemed beneficial in the slow and managed process of being equipped for safe and productive reintegration, I can say that in 12 years of such experience, not one of some thousands of such outings has resulted in harm, damage or escape of men who are varyingly well-motivated in wanting to be re-socialized well. On the contrary, along with numerous volunteers from the community who participate in such meetings, I know that these visits make significant contributions by assisting the safe reintegration of those who have been incarcerated.

These outings are not “parole”, and can in no way be characterized as “parole through the back door.” They can however, be seen as making significant contributions to effective eventual parole and so should not be reduced, or heaven forbid, eliminated. The evidence is there that this kind of connecting and interaction between inmates and the community should be increased. There should be much more opening of the doors in intentional and managed ways. Similarly, UTAs are generally understood within the system as being a short step away from parole but with many more controls and safeguards than apply to parole itself.

The Correctional Service is to be congratulated and supported in its humane, pro-social and effective practices of ETAs and UTAs. The proposal to strip prison wardens of the authority to grant ETAs fails to recognize that those who have regular contact with inmates and have full information at their disposal, are professionally equipped to make appropriate decisions concerning prospects for social reintegration of individual inmates, consistent with public safety.

Peter Huish
Chaplain-Coordinator
MSCM

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