FCRP Part 2
In Part 2 of Faith Community Reintegration Projects 101, I want to look at where the process of engagement begins and what the significant steps of the process are—including how volunteers can get involved inside the institutions and help build that "bridge" of reintegration from the institution to their faith community. (Missed Part 1? Read it here.)
Under Better Life’s contract with Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), our work with offenders begins as an individual becomes eligible for parole and one of the following occurs:
A Corrections Site Chaplain or faith-specific chaplain contacts us with a referral. The majority of individuals who invite Better Life to provide support for their reintegration back into the community are Christian. However, under the CSC contract, Better Life provides support for individuals from all faith backgrounds. This means we may be contacted by chaplains representing any faiths asking if we would meet with an individual to discuss how Better Life can provide support.
Individuals becoming eligible for parole may contact Better Life personally. In this case, an offender may have come across information about us independently or have been referred through another offender who has benefited from their experience with Better Life.
After the initial point of contact, a Better Life Chaplain has an interview with the individual eligible for parole to determine if Better Life is the organization that can provide them with the best possible faith reintegration experience.
Better Life is part of a wider network of reintegration agencies, and our goal is to provide the most helpful pathway possible for an individual.
That may mean that we get to work directly with an individual to develop their Reintegration Pathway, or if there is an agency that can provide more resources and support then we can offer, we will refer them.
For instance, Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) is an organization that specializes in working with those who have an index offence of a sexual nature. Research (Wilson, Cortoni and McWhinnie, 2009) demonstrates that sexual re-offending rates for men who participate in CoSA are 80% lower than for men who do not participate in CoSA.
Since our priority is to provide the best possible opportunity for faith community reintegration, our commitment is to always have an offender’s best interest at heart—whether that means they have a relationship with Better Life or are better served by another agency, in which case we will help connect them.
Additionally, Better Life's Organizational Purpose goes beyond the responsibilities specified in our contract with Corrections Canada.
Our staff/chaplains fulfill CSC’s FCRP (Faith Community Reintegration Projects) contractual statement of work. However—and this is where so much opportunity for valuable and meaningful involvement lies—Better Life is also comprised of volunteers.
Volunteers work within the Institutions in support of Site Chaplains—the resident chaplains who provide support at individual Corrections Institutions.
Volunteers may be involved in offering training programs for offenders such as Alpha, Purpose Driven Life, and Real Life Discipleship, to name a few options. They may be a mentor to a specific offender. They may provide a listening ear, or meet with an offender coming up to parole to help establish a relationship with the faith community the offender will be integrating into.
The role of the volunteer is invaluable and often provides the assurance to an individual coming up to parole that there is hope. Over and over again we experience and hear feedback that one of the primary and essential ingredients is relationship, relationship, relationship.
Better Life is deeply grateful for our team of volunteers, and works with individuals and their faith communities to ensure security clearance is put in place so that volunteers have access to Corrections Institutes.
That initial contact of a volunteer with an individual who is coming up to their parole is invaluable in building the "bridge" that leads to healthy reintegration.
So, to connect the steps in order:
An individual in prison is coming up to parole, and requests the support of or is referred to Better Life.
A Better Life Chaplain has an interview with the offender to both assess whether or not we're the best partner organization to offer support, but also to begin to engage with the wider network of Corrections members who will be a part of the offender’s Parole Reintegration Plan.
Better Life works with the Site Chaplain, the Institution Parole Officer (IPO), and with others within the Corrections Institution, and may take other steps such as attending a Parole Hearing before the Parole Board, to develop a plan for healthy, successful faith community reintegration. Note: while Better Life doesn’t determine outcomes such as which halfway house (CRF, CCC) that an individual will be sent to, we are often invited to the process and may have influence in the best possible halfway home for the individual and their personal needs.
It is at this point—when Better Life has an indication of where an individual will be sent to—that connection with a faith community can begin. Our ideal scenario is that we would already have a relationship with a faith community in the area of the halfway house the offender will be sent to and can begin preparing the faith community for the arrival of the individual. If we don't have a pre-existing relationship with a location-appropriate faith community, or if the individual requests a faith community we're not already connected with, we will reach out on their behalf.
As you can imagine, the initial welcome and support of a faith community is invaluable in helping a parolee begin to believe that successful reintegration is possible.
Next month we’re going to look at the essential pieces of the "bridge" provided in that important handoff of an offender from the support of a Better Life Chaplain to volunteer-supported integration into a faith community.
If you have any questions about volunteering and how to get involved in providing support for an individual’s reintegration, please don’t hesitate to contact our General Director, Adam Wiggins, at firstname.lastname@example.org.