Pubdate: Wed, 10 May 2006
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2006 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: C.D. Olson


On May 3, I visited a close family member at the Regina Correctional 
Facility. I never leave there feeling good, but that night I left 
feeling unusually distraught.

For starters, not only is the place run-down and ill kept -- which 
stands to reason, as the building is a million years old -- it is 
also downright depressing. Yes, I am aware of the new construction 
about to take place, but there is a whole building full of 
able-bodied men not doing much of anything -- how about cleaning the 
old place and maybe giving it a coat of paint or two? It is, after 
all, their temporary home. Just a suggestion . .

The condition of the building itself is, however, the least of my 
concerns. Now, call me simplistic, but since the place is called a 
"correctional facility", wouldn't one expect that there might be some 
"correction" going on there? It is my understanding that a 
corrections worker must have formal education in the field of 
"corrections" and/or hold a degree or certificate in the field of 
human services. While they are working with the clients, one would 
think that they would be doing some teaching, counselling, positive 
interaction, or at least something!

There are many dedicated professionals employed there, a few of whom 
I have had the pleasure of meeting. Unfortunately, there are always 
those who let their ego get the best of them. I'm told that some 
enjoy movie watching, card playing, music listening and a host of 
other leisure activities while on shift -- and take pleasure in 
treating the clients as though they are second-rate humans and not 
worthy of the air that they breathe. When is the "correction" going 
to take place -- on commercial breaks?

Can someone please explain to me how the wrongdoers are receiving any 
correction? How can these individuals even begin to change their ways 
when they have some big burly "corrections worker" all hopped up on 
their own testosterone, or estrogen as it were, shouting obscenities, 
calling these men pieces of s- -t, modeling the same behaviours that 
got the inmates a "room at the inn" in the first place?

Here is a concept: Treat your clients with the respect and dignity 
that every human being deserves and chances are you will get it back. 
Perhaps you won't be spit at, or worse, on a regular basis. Please be 
clear, I am, in no way painting all corrections workers with the same 
brush. Unfortunately, as is often the case, "a few bad apples spoil the bunch".

Our prison is full of individuals afflicted by one addiction or 
another. Yet there is little or no programming available to assist 
them in their recovery, if they so choose. These people literally sit 
and rot in prison. Why aren't we offering them support to make 
positive changes in their lives? It is imperative that these 
individuals are given the tools to make their lives better, allowing 
them to re-enter society and become productive, law-abiding citizens.

With no programming in place to assist positive change, we might just 
as well install a revolving door. You might say the inmates were 
given this opportunity before they landed themselves in jail, and you 
may be right. But what is the alternative? They serve their measly 
sentences and head back out on the street with the same attitudes and 
beliefs they had when they arrived.

If one chooses to break the law, one must be held accountable. Of 
this I am sure. But what are we doing to facilitate those who want to 
regain their freedom and make positive choices for themselves and 
their families? Granted, not every individual will choose another 
path -- but at the very least, they ought to be provided with the 
opportunity to do so and to realize their potential.

I have a message for corrections workers -- every day you have the 
opportunity and the privilege to make a difference in someone's life. 
That small kindness you extend, the words you say or the pat on the 
back you give, could be the turning point for that person. Everyone 
needs to feel that they are of value and that what they do is not 
necessarily who they are. Model the behaviour you wish to see in the 
people you work with every day. Expect only the best from these men 
and see them for who they are, not what they've done.

The job you do is not an easy one -- that I recognize and appreciate 
and although the choice is ultimately theirs to make, I challenge you 
to put the "correction" back into the correction facility where it 
belongs -- one inmate at a time.

C.D. Olson

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