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FORUM on Corrections Research

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Communities: Are you involved?

Jodi McDonough and Jim Murphy1
Community Engagement Sector, Correctional Service of Canada

The participation of citizens and communities in partnership with the Correctional Service of Canada is fundamental to a more effective and safe return of the offender back to the community as a law abiding citizen. A broad and diverse citizen base, actively involved in the correctional process, and representative of both Canadian communities and the offender population, is key to ensuring that strong and safe communities remain an essential part of the quality of life for all Canadians.

Canadians consider their personal safety and the security of their communities to be a priority. They look to their public institutions for reassurance that the criminal justice system is working and serving the best interests of public safety. In fulfilling its mandate, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) contributes to a just, peaceful, and safe society by carrying out sentences imposed by the courts. It does so to ensure the safe and humane custody and supervision of offenders while assisting in preparing offenders to safely reintegrate into the community through the provision of programs in penitentiaries as well as in the community.

The engagement of citizens and community-based voluntary organizations through a wide range of initiatives and activities contributes to achieving these goals. Offenders are part of our communities they come from our communities, and the majority will return to our communities. Offender reintegration can therefore be conceptualized as a community affair an affair that citizens must be engaged in to better support the safe reintegration of offenders and in turn, the long-term protection of the public. The Service’s mission statement reflects and reinforces the value of citizens’ involvement in the correctional process. Furthermore, its strategic objectives direct the service to ensure that volunteers form an integral part of program delivery both in institutions and the community.

This engagement must be conducted in an integrated manner from the beginning of the sentence, to warrant expiry, and beyond. This type of integration is instrumental in providing opportunities to involve victims, volunteers, Citizens’ Advisory Committees and communities, as well as our traditional partners to participate in this process. This is consistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act principle which directs us to “facilitate the involvement of members of the public in matters relating to the operations of the Service”2.

To maintain, enhance, and sustain our correctional results, CSC must engage communities throughout the continuum of correctional processes in a variety of ways. Such as, raising community awareness, mobilizing community support for the reintegration of offenders, and consulting with communities. By positively impacting the lives of offenders, mobilizing crucial community resources, raising public awareness as to humane, effective corrections and the needs of offenders, Canadians have the opportunity to contribute to an even greater degree in the safety of their communities.

The Governor General of Canada in her speech from the Throne reinforced to Canadians the role and potential contribution of citizens in building competitive cities and healthy communities: “respectful of our history, confident in our future, let each of us do our part… we know that by pursuing the common good, we pursue our own good; [a country]… is a common enterprise to which all can contribute”3

In highlighting the implications and benefits associated with the involvement, support and participation of diverse citizens and communities in the correctional process, a reality begins to reveal itself. That reality is in order to preserve and enhance the well-being of communities that Canadians are so very proud to call home, we all must share the responsibility for ensuring their safety and security well into the 21st century.

1. 340 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0P9.

2. Corrections and Conditional Release Act, R.S.C., C-.20, 1992.

3. Clarkson, A. (2002). The Canada We Want: Speech from the Throne, September 30.