Monday, April 09, 2012

H is for Helping Hands

My volunteer work has recently expanded beyond the kids' book clubs and writers groups to the criminal justice community. I'm working with two groups of individuals who are in transition out of federal custody. One is a creative forum, the other an extensive idea-sharing forum.

I have just come to realize, I think, how critical the volunteer community is to the successful "rehabilitation" of former offenders. Basically, if the volunteer programs are not strong enough with regards to reintegration-to-society efforts, the *other* volunteer community will instead prevail; that circle of supportive criminals offering to assist reintegration to criminal life.

I say this without cynicism. I perceive there is intended kindness in both forms.

Still I can't help but suspect that the largest influence on this equation lies in the actions of parole officers. And while I never witness their interactions with their wards, I do see some of the fallout from their decision-making.

I see them try to create positive motivation through stiff rules rather than effective counselling; surely a delinquent concept by any school of psychology. That concerns me.

And I see the physical state of the environment inside one community correctional centre for residents who are on conditional release. It is one barely tolerated, I imagine, by the mice who share the residence. Yet the tenants, to their significant credit, treat their meagre comforts with gratitude and care.

Does this send any messages do you suppose, when parolees are treated at par with mice? Are they to feel they are viewed as potential contributors to society or are they to feel viewed as hopeless and unwanted?

I know which circle of volunteers I would slink back to if I were to be treated as hopeless and unwanted by the mainstream. Let us hope that my limited observations are not representative of the norm.

1 comment:

MOV said...

great post. you bring up some valid points about volunteers that I never would have thought of.

I think sometimes people volunteer so that other people will think better of them. Maybe this is the case with the volunteers you are obseriving, in which case their hearts are not really in the right place.

will be back to read more!