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Posts Tagged ‘community corrections’

“In keeping with these developments, probationers have been subject  to a growing range of penal controls. During the 1950s, probation involved the offender occasionally meeting with, and reporting to, his or her probation officer, and being bound by the general conditions of probation orders, as well as, no doubt, being subject to a variety of informal local controls. Today, however, many probationers, in addition to the purview and surveillance of a probation officer, and through the more specific and specialized community-correctional conditions of probation orders, encounter members of the Salvation Army and John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies, as well as the numerous church, business, native, and other community groups and volunteers charged with penal processing. It is difficult to conceive that the growth of the Ministry of Correctional Services’ community satellites has not entailed the evolution of increasingly pervasive models of penal control.
….
Ominous tendencies are…evident in the case of community service orders. They, too, increase the range and intensity of formal conditions of probation. Yet the program has ideological appeal across the political spectrum. Within corrections, it enjoys the support of judges, correctional officials, and numerous private-sector groups who have become involved in the provision of community-service-order programs in Ontario. Much of the appeal of community service orders derives from their perceived reparative effects. But, as Axon has observed in her study of community service orders in Canada, what Community [Service] is, in fact, is unpaid work done by the offender in the community. Whether or not this unpaid labour constitutes reparation is another matter entirely.’

The appeal of community service orders – as with community corrections more generally – also derives from their emphasis on community. As Stanley Cohen has observed, the word ‘community’ is not only ‘rich in symbolic power, but it lacks any negative connotations.’ Different, competing, and even contradictory assumptions can be brought together under the ambiguous concept of community. Leaving aside the problematic issue of how ‘community’ should be define, the extent to which offenders are members of the community that benefits from their own unpaid labour is doubtful. Studies of community service orders in Ontario, and in Canada more generally, suggest that those subject to the program are often young, unemployed males, who are first-time offenders, do not belong to clubs or organizations, and have had ‘poor education with few prospects of obtaining anything but ‘dead end’ jobs” (Axon). What would be the benefit to these offenders, it seems, are better opportunities to become members of the community’s paid labour force, rather than being subjected to forced labour.

At the same time, one segment of the wider community has clearly benefited from, and been remunerated through, community service orders: private-sector groups have derived financial as well as ideological benefits from the development of programs. They pressured the Ministry of Correctional Services to develop community-service-order programs and to make contracts with them for operating the programs. Following from this, community service orders have more to provide jobs for those affiliated with the John Howard Society, the Elizabeth Fry Society, the Salvation Army, and other groups, than for offenders. In the process, the incomes of these groups increased. They and their quasi-civil service staff benefited from the perception that community service orders ‘helped humanize the correctional system while providing them with worthwhile jobs (Menzies). In a variety of ways, and similarly to the situation of community-service-order programs elsewhere, ‘in reality, the service which the offender gives is not to an abstract ‘community’ but rather to those agencies and individuals who are willing to be involved with offenders’. (Axon) Overall, community service orders strengthen the net of penal control not only by formally extending probation conditions, but also in expanding the range of non-state agencies becoming involved in – an financially dependent on – the exercise of control.”

– Maeve W. McMahon, The Persistent Prison? Rethinking Decarceration and Penal Reform. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992. pp. 120-122.

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Citizen advisory committee groups have become a
strong arm in the community, reaching out to local
penitentiaries, helping to understand why resocialization
of inmates is important for the community and the
inmate. The following extracts from a story in the
Gravenhurst News portrays an incisive picture of a
citizen committee working to help correctional endeavors.
Author Michael Cole is a member of the
citizen’s advisory committee working with inmates
and staff at Beaver Creek Correctional Camp, Ont.

I am becoming more and more aware of a very special,
valuable, and unique relationship between Beaver Creek
Correctional Camp and the community in which it is
situated. This article explains why I feel we are “lucky” to
have Beaver Creek in our midst.

I say lucky because Beaver Creek affords us — the citizens
of Muskoka — an unparalleled opportunity to help the
residents of Beaver Creek help themselves get back into the
mainstream of Canadian life, and in return, we are fortunate
in reaping the rewards of the many and varied projects the
fellows from Beaver Creek have undertaken in this
community — most of them at no cost to us whatsoever.
Our relationship with Beaver Creek is a two way — give
and take — affair. But for us to give, we have to fully
understand what Beaver Creek is all about.

Briefly, for those who are unfamiliar, or are new to the
community, Beaver Creek Correctional Camp is a minimum
security penal institution situated between Gravenhurst and
Bracebridge off Hwy 11, with a resident population of about
100, and a staff of 20. There are no bars, no gates —
nothing to prevent somebody getting out — or in — at
any time. The only barrier is a bond of understanding that
exists in the minds of the residents and the administration.

There are rules, to be sure, but on any given day quite a
number of the residents travel into nearby towns to work, go

to the doctor or dentist, do volunteer jobs, or go to a movie.
Many of them get day or weekend passes enabling them to
spend a few days with their families at home.

Residents of Beaver Creek are given something rather incongruous
in a penal institution — freedom. But freedom
implies responsibility. At Beaver Creek the residents learn to
discipline themselves — they work together collectively
trying to maintain as good an image as possible in the
community. Granted, there is the odd unfortunate incident
— usually blown far out of proportion by a sometimes unfair
and ill-informed public — but by and large their percentage
of good deeds to bad is no worse (and sometimes even better)
than what exists in any office, school, or large group of
people here, or anywhere else.

In 1961, when it was announced that Beaver Creek was to
be established in this area, some people felt that the lives of
those who lived near the camp would be in danger. Others
looked at the whole project with some concern, but luckily
these fears quickly faded as people began to learn more
about the camp, and as they realized that their preconceived
notions about the camp had little or no basis in fact.

The Citizens Advisory Committee, of which I am a member,
is composed of 12 men and women chosen from all over
Muskoka. It meets regularly at Beaver Creek and acts as a
liaison between the camp and the surrounding community to
identify the needs of both groups, to try to fill these needs by
creating the situations and opportunities for the Beaver
Creek residents to involve themselves in the community.

As Rev Jim Thompson, another member of the committee
put it, “How can a person who has been artificially separated
from society for a period of time be expected to function
as a responsible citizen on release without a graduai
reintroduction into society.

"This requires mutual cooperation between the institution
and the society surrounding it, and it is in this area that we,
as citizens, can help, if only by changing our own attitudes
toward Beaver Creek.”

Examples of the many volunteer community projects that
Beaver Creek has done are too numerous to list, however
here are a few examples. They do a variety of work at the
Ontario hospitals in Gravenhurst and Orillia. Some of the
residents form a band which plays free at The Pines in
Bracebridge, during the winter carnival, and for other local
functions. Over 40 Beaver Creek men were involved doing
volunteer work during the winter carnival maintaining the fire
in front of the opera house, refereeing hockey games, marshalling
the opening night snowmobile parade, building up
the trail for the snowmobile races, and many more jobs.
They do free maintenance for the Children’s Aid at
Longhurst House in Bracebridge, and at their summer

camp. They do work for the boy scouts and girl guides,
chopping wood, and preparing campsites for them. During
the recent renovations of the Gravenhurst opera house, an
entire crew from Beaver Creek spent hundreds of hours
working on the floors and ceilings of the auditorium.

And they provide assistance to individuals, many of them
elderly, who are unable to do needed repair work on their
homes. All of this is strictly on a volunteer basis, and while
there are problems providing transportation and supervision,
Beaver Creek volunteers are available for this type of work
on an individual basis in either community.

I hope the preceeding will give the reader at least a small
insight into what Beaver Creek is all about. Again, I will repeat
that I feel we are very fortunate to have Beaver Creek
in our midst. Not only do their many community assistance
projects help us, but it affords us a rare opportunity to help a
lot of people that are eager for our understanding and assistance.
They don’t ask for anything really tangible – simply
a thank you when they do something worthwhile, a smile
now and then, and more than anything, they want an opportunity
to prove themselves. Let’s all of us give them this
chance at every opportunity. Let’s replace suspicion with
understanding.

– Michael Cole, “Prison Camp Offers Community Helping Hand.” Discussion, Vol. 2, no. 3, Sept. 1974. pp. 23-25.

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