Innovation in volunteering

Volunteering has not looked the same at the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) since March 2020. During the pandemic, CSC staff and volunteers have adapted by creating virtual volunteering activities through:

  • phone
  • mail
  • email, etc.

Virtual volunteering activities

  • Letter writing/pen pals
  • Telephone mentoring
  • Tax filing support
  • Video meeting for group activities
  • Remote book clubs and art classes
  • Recorded meditation

What we are doing

CSC is committed to adapting its volunteer services to the new normal. To achieve this, we are:

  • gathering promising practices in virtual volunteering and sharing them across the country
  • increasing communications to volunteers and promoting virtual volunteering opportunities
  • encouraging volunteers to join the new CSC Stakeholder Collaboration Hub
  • consulting CSC volunteers to find out their interests and ideas in returning to volunteer activities, in-person or virtually
  • collaborating with community organizations to introduce new volunteer activities and expand existing services

Innovation in citizen engagement

While the pandemic has created challenges on many fronts, it has also encouraged volunteers and CSC staff to adapt and develop innovative ways to support individuals in our care and custody. Some of the key highlights are shared below.

The Value of Volunteers within the Correctional Service of Canada

CSC volunteers work directly with offenders to support their rehabilitation and reintegration. Read about their important contributions.

Celebrating 20 Years of Collaboration with Many of Canada's Diverse Communities

Identifying and meeting the specific needs and interests of ethnocultural offenders has been a priority for CSC for over 20 years. September 2021 marked the 20th anniversary of the creation of CSC's National Ethnocultural Advisory Committee (NEAC).

Book Clubs that Inspire and Transform

Book Club for Inmates is a volunteer-led organization facilitating French and English-speaking book clubs inside 36 of CSC's institutions across Canada, with over 100 volunteers.

"Buzzing" Around at Stony Mountain Institution!

Stony Mountain Institution launched a beekeeping initiative with the help of CORCAN and community partners, fuelled by staff ingenuity and inmate participation.

William Head on Stage: Celebrating Live Theatre for 40 Years

William Head Institution, a thirty-five minute drive from Victoria, B.C., is the only federal prison in Canada that has an inmate-run theatre company supported by CSC volunteers.

Matsqui Institution Inmate Pens Heartfelt Poem to CSC Volunteers

Entitled Community, the poem centres on the importance of the support of others and speaks volumes about the growth offenders experience when volunteers are present in their lives.

Volunteers Change Inmates' Lives: Even During Covid

While some in-person volunteer activities at institutions or in the community have been put on hold, CSC's volunteers, staff, and community partners have found innovative ways to stay in touch with offenders virtually by telephone and mail.

Working together to support the families of incarcerated individuals

In 2019, CSC partnered with Canadian Families and Corrections Network (CFCN) to expand their successful Visitor Resource Center program in Ontario. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when CFCN staff and volunteers could not enter the institutions, they launched virtual Family Resiliency Sessions for offenders to encourage positive well-being, family connections, and supportive relationships and also began offering their Dad HERO (Helping Everyone Realize Opportunities) program by telephone. They also created and distributed over 3,000 letter-writing kits to encourage connection between children and families.

Alcoholics Anonymous Pen Pal Program

The Upper Fraser Valley AA Committee is comprised of AA members who serve federal institutions through in-person meetings within the province of British-Columbia and the Yukon Territory.  During COVID, the Upper Fraser Valley AA Committee undertook new initiatives when regular programming could not be offered.

With the assistance of CSC staff, the Upper Fraser Valley AA Corrections Committee launched the AA Pen Pal Plus Program, which:

  • Connects AA members in institutions with AA members in the community through mail correspondence.
  • Offers inmates an opportunity to receive guidance on tackling substance use through mail correspondence.

The Committee collaborated with Fraser Valley Institution and Mountain Institution, with support from Pacific Regional Headquarters, to bring the program to life. The committee:

  • recruits AA members in the community with at least 2 years of sobriety;
  • provides information sheets to inmates and pen pals as well as AA literature to sites; and
  • collaborates with staff to create guidelines to maintain confidentiality, such as using a central office address for the letters.

Citizen Advisory Committees go virtual

In 2020, the Metro Vancouver West Community Corrections CAC spearheaded an initiative that provided new educational opportunities for CSC staff and community partners. They have presented two virtual webinars in 2020 and 2021, on the topics of aging offenders and victims of federal offenders respectively.

Their latest webinar on victims of federal offenders gathered over 350 registrations across Canada and included participants from corrections, policing and victim serving organizations as well as citizens from across Canada and beyond. The virtual nature of the webinar allowed for over 400 people to learn and participate.

Get involved

If you are a registered CSC volunteer and want to contribute without having to physically go to an institution or site, please reach out to your local volunteer coordinator to discuss what is possible. Sites are doing their best to incorporate volunteers into their COVID-19 plans.

Related links

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