Better Life has a clear and intentional pathway for supporting an offender in their desire to experience healthy reintegration.
While, sadly, there are no silver bullets when it comes to reintegration, there are game-changers.
Relationship is vital.
Many men and women coming out of Corrections institutions—often because of the culture they experience within the prisons—are asking the question, "who can I trust?"
The answer is found in communities of people whose faith leads them to be:
welcoming to marginalized people
relationally authentic (i.e., "my faith leads me to realize I don’t have my life together")
seeking to live their lives by a consistent expression of values inspired by their faith
In so many respects, this is why faith community reintegration can have such a far-reaching impact on lowering recidivism.
Better Life is committed to helping individuals from all faiths to connect with their faith communities, as per the terms of our contract with Corrections Canada as a Faith Community Reintegration Project (FCRP). While our organization is comprised of individuals who are followers of Jesus, we engage with offenders of all faith backgrounds and commit to exemplifying the person of Jesus through everything we do, including supporting offenders to connect with their chosen faith communities.
We are constantly reaching out to faith community leaders to communicate what we do and the difference that a faith community can have in helping a parolee experience a healthy reintegration.
Better Life's commitment is to be working with faith communities who believe their faith leads them to invest in the support and care of men and women on parole.
To be clear, Better Life’s practice is not to ask faith communities to adopt a "Better Life reintegration program."
Instead, we engage with faith communities around the essential elements of healthy reintegration they may already have and could further develop within their community and offer our support as a resource centre.
Some of these essential elements include:
Another name for this is Boundaries.
What do a faith community’s members need to know to provide healthy relationships and safety—both for individuals on parole, but also for the rest of their community?
Healthy guardrails protect everyone and ensure the best outcomes possible.
(Next month we’ll look at what specific Guardrails are needed.)
In the context of a Christian faith community or church we might call this discipleship.
What pathway can the community lead an offender on to help them continue to grow and develop and to experience a healthy integration into the community?
This will look somewhat different for different faith communities, but the common and valuable essentials are expressed through relationship:
Who are the committed individuals who are going to support the parolee?
What are they going to engage around that will continue to help the parolee to grow and develop?
Do they understand the unique challenges a parolee faces?
Things that many of us take for granted can be a significant challenges for a parolee.
These include housing (following the halfway house), employment, groceries, counselling for trauma, and in some cases, addiction.
In the November newsletter, we will provide one possible outline for a small group structure that helps individuals grow in their faith and development.
Essentially, Better Life values faith communities as relational resource centres. Within the faith community is every resource a parolee needs to continue to move forward. And the faith community makes an invaluable contribution to a parolee’s experience and in the lowering of the recidivism rate.
Faith Community reintegration is a game-changer and a life-changer for everyone involved.
This is not limited to the offenders. Involved members of the faith communities often remark that they receive more through supporting offenders than they give, while the community at large benefits as incidents of crime and violence are reduced.
Better Life is developing a "toolbox" that it will offer for training purposes at faith communities, and also plans to make available on our website in the coming months.
If you have questions about volunteering and how to involve your faith community in providing support for an individual’s reintegration, please don’t hesitate to contact our General Director, Adam Wiggins, at email@example.com.