Working To Reduce the Risk of Re-offending
The responsibility for providing adequate and appropriate planning for an inmate’s eventual release is a daunting task. As many offenders enter into the prison system with nothing or lose everything in the process of their incarceration, to provide for all of their needs can be overwhelming
While most institutions provide for at a least a minimum of discharge services, often community agencies and churches inherit the responsibility of providing suitable and hopefully adequate provisions for the returning offender’s needs. Sometimes, however, it isn’t enough. In fact, recent reports show a large number of inmates are being released from provincial institutions directly into an already over-burdened shelter system. Ex-offenders and Homelessness soon may become synonymous.
For over 10 years THE BRIDGE provided all Discharge Planning services within the Ontario Correctional Institute. Now we are called upon to assist with offenders who are returning to the GTA and we are called to provide for those cases where the needs are ‘special’. These needs can be anything from obtaining identification in order to acquire proper medication, to simply support.
Institutional Discharge Planning is important in that it provides inmates with the tools and resources they need to help themselves develop a realistic and successful plan for release.
Discharge Planning is designed to make the transition from the institution to the community safe and uncomplicated. The hope is to strengthen the offenders’ chances for success and to ease their fears and anxieties on their release. This greatly reduces the possibility of re-offending.
The fact that inmates are able to contact and in some cases receive support and/or services while still incarcerated ensures their ability to access the resources they need in the community in order to succeed on their release.Providing suitable planning means that we strongly rely on the partnerships and resources we have cultivated within the community with numerous agencies and service providers. Without the aid of these groups, much of the planning and work that the inmate needs to do in preparation for his release, would not be possible
Services THE BRIDGE is Able To Provide Pre-Release
- Release Planning
- Locate suitable and available community supports or treatment programs
- Provide support and encouragement
- Assist with phone calls or letters to agencies or community support groups
- Arrange for suitable housing or shelter reservations
- Assist with Ontario Works (Welfare) applications
- Provide contact numbers for any and all specific requirements (Unemployment, etc.)
- Provide clothing (many inmates arrested in summer are released in winter)
- Locate or provide transportation when possible
- Encourage on-going community support and friendship
A number of churches, schools, men’s and women’s groups and even a youth hockey team have generously provided ‘Kit Bags” for offenders who have little or nothing upon their release.
These kits contain: toiletries, towels, alarm clocks, underwear and socks, candy and sometimes work boots. But the real gift is in providing a sense of dignity for someone who might have otherwise left prison with all their worldly possessions in a half-empty garbage bag.Â (see : “Do We Make a Difference” to read personal ‘Thank You’ notes)