Without prison chaplains, support programs will disintegrate

23 Oct, 2012

Further to Tim Smart’s letter, I happen to be just one of those volunteers who work with part-time English-speaking prison chaplains within the federal penitentiaries located here in Quebec.

All 49 part-time Canadian prison chaplains would be losing their contracts if Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has his way. In Quebec, it means the “minority” English-speaking part-time prison chaplains will lose their jobs, leaving nobody to replace them. As a volunteer, how will I have access to inmates and ex-inmates without a prison chaplain? Through prison chaplaincy, volunteers work within restorative justice guidelines and provide reintegration programs and community support to those in need, thereby reducing the rates of recidivism. According to the Statistics Canada report of July, Canada’s crime rates are at their lowest level in 40 years (the report includes statistics up to 2011), a result of the many reintegration and support programs provided by volunteers with their prison chaplains leading the way, and certainly not as a result of the Conservatives’ tough-on-crime legislation, Bill C-10, which passed the House only in March.

The part-time contracts only provide the bare minimum for prison chaplains to recuperate their expenses, such as transportation costs, and certainly don’t allow these chaplains to live high on the hog. The chaplains I know donate unbelievable hours of their own time not only to prisoners who need spiritual healing, but also to the numerous volunteers who need guidance and support. Although this may make Pauline Marois extremely happy to rid herself of federal English-speaking prison chaplains, I can assure you that all of these programs will quickly disintegrate and support for those returning to the community will become non-existent. Do Canadians really want to go down this precarious road? Could this be just the beginnings of prison privatization in Canada?

Written by: Paula Kay

Paula is MSCM’s Administrative Assistant running the MSCM office, maintaining contact and email lists, fulfills all administrative duties, and prepares all MSCM publications. She is the Editor of The Sou’Wester newsletter. Paula is a Certified CSC Escort for both Montée St. Francois (ESMF) and Federal Training Centre (FTC) institutions and sits on a circle with the CoSA-Project.

Read more: Montreal Gazette

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