Saturday, August 25, 2012

Almost a “Life Sentence” with CSC’s CAC – 14 years and still inside

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Almost a “Life Sentence” with CSC’s CAC – 14 years and still inside
Fourteen Years ago my friend Dan Haley called me to ask if I would be willing to come with him to the Parole Office to talk about a guy coming out of a Federal Prison. The man was older and in a wheel chair.  There was no place for him to live and no resources to help him.

Dan and I met at the Parole Office with Ted Boynton and Pat Powell along with the Parole Office Supervisor Vince Hendricks at that time.

We discussed the problems that “Stan” was facing as he came out of prison.  Stan had an attitude problem that tended to drive people away. He was a senior citizen with a criminal record - sitting in a wheel chair.  His crime revolved around his anger issues and had given him quite a few years in Prison.

After 20 minutes we discussed the issues at hand. We also had shared the different things that we each brought to the table related to our abilities, training and interests.

Vince suggested that we might consider forming a CAC to better help this ex-con.  So following the conversation together we agreed to form the first CAC group with and for the Parole in Peterborough.

It all happened because of the bad attitude Stan and a passion of each of the newly formed CAC group to help keep our community safe.  Housing and support for Stan was going to be vital. Finding that support and safety for Stan, was a task that we could do to keep our community safe.

Dan helped with the support. Vince helped to arrange a place for Stan to stay part time – in a motel with very large doors for Stan’s wheel chair to get through. 

Dan had been able to get Stan a temporary room at a Senior’s Care Home but when the management of the home found out who was allowed to sleep in that bed they demanded that Dan pick the guy up immediately and get him out of there. Having an Ex-Con next door to someone’s dear old mother was not a saleable feature for the Home’s Brochure.

That is why we found a Motel Room for him until further arrangements could be made.

I tell you that long, beginning story from long ago – because it is the basis of my involvement with the CAC – 14 years ago.

None of the original four members had any idea what the CAC was about. We only knew that from what we heard that our talents and abilities might be a help to keep our community safe.  We had never heard the letters “CAC” before – just like most of the people in Canada.

CAC stands for “Citizen Advisory Committee”.  You can read about it here – Citizen Advisory Committee

What does it do?

The CAC works along with the “Correctional Service Canada” – the CSC to help carry out its correctional mandate in the Prison and Community.

Don Head, the Commissioner for CSC, states the following when he refers to the CAC… quote… As informed participants in the correctional process, you are charged with not only representing the views of the communities in which we operate, but also in representing CSC’s mandate and values to the community. By actively engaging community support, you help bridge the gap between offenders in correctional facilities and the community.

“Bridge the Gap” and “Actively Engaging the Community” are great ways to explain what our CAC does in Peterborough.

That was 14 years ago.  Ted and Dan along with me sit with the five other citizens from our community to listen to the local Parole Office Supervisor give us a report of what is going on in our Parole Office – listen to the great stories as well as the harder ones at times – when a Parolee goes off side, messes up and heads back to Prison.

Our CAC over these past years has creatively sought ways, designed opportunities and carried out community engagement training sessions, symposiums and contacts in Peterborough and the surrounding areas.

A lot has happened since we began this adventure together. Our community has been impacted in many ways. They have been informed and challenged as the stories of Former Offenders share what they are doing now. They, the community and the CAC members, have been deeply stirred as Victims of Crime have told their accounts of the nightmares that they have even now – years after the original crimes were committed.

I think of Marie O’Connor and her account of having lived through the murder of her son and the many years of struggling with the Parole Hearings, along with the CSC response to their plight of traveling to the Hearings in place far away.  Marie walked a long road by herself – and none of our community knew about it. Our CAC began to work with Marie and her story hit home for all of us.

I think of Donalda Garland and how she shared her story with our community and the CAC at some of the first symposiums that we held.  Her father had raped her over and over again. She was made pregnant by him. And then he and her step-mother held her down on the kitchen table as he aborted the baby.  He started raping her when she was very young and it continued happening until she was in her early 20s.

He last raped her when he brought her to place for her Theological Studies – a Bible College where she would study to become an ordained minister.  That last night he raped her in that motel and then whispered in her ear, “It is finished” – quoting Jesus on the Cross!

Donalda’s life was ruined but from the ruins came what she would become… someone telling a horrific story and the survival from it. But that didn’t happen overnight – she locked the memories away from even her husband – until one day something happened and the story gushed out.

Her father was charged with rape and pedophilic acts with children. He has been in prison for years. The charges that stuck and convicted him were from only a few young ladies. Donalda said that they suspect he has committed these horrific acts against over 200 children – who are now adults coping with miserable lives.

Our CAC brought her story to the limelight and our community will never be the same again.

(BTW – this Ex-Con – still in Prison -  has studied to become a Minister while in that Prison and I think some group has or is about to “Ordain” him!  No kidding!!!)

Fast forward to 2012…
Next week Ted Boynton, one of our original CAC Members, will take the leadership of the Peterborough Parole CAC over. Congratulations TED!!!  I will still be sitting with the CAC and meeting with our Parole Officers from time to time. Together with our whole CAC group we will continue to actively engage our community and help our community to see the excellent work that CSC does in our city and area.

Yesterday… I got a promotion of sorts. I was elected as the new Chair for the Ontario Region’s CAC.  In this position I will be connecting with all the Community CACs and also all of the Federal Institution CACs in Ontario.

But there is a small bit more to the new task for me. Being the Ontario Chair this year also brings with it the responsibilities of being the National Vice Chair for all the CACs in Canada. And if I am still alive and sane – in two years the Vice Chair will become the Chair for the Canadian CACs.

I know that doesn’t mean much to you, my readers of this blog.  But for me – it means that I will be hearing the wonderful stories of what is happening all across Ontario first and then all across Canada.

A lot has happened since the four of us walked into the Parole Office that day – 14 years ago… WOW!

Now the next step of the journey begins…

Thank you fellow CAC members for your trust in me as your new Chair.

Thank you to all the CSC Staff that I have connected with over these 14 years. Your willingness to share and help train me… is going to bring more good things out of all that will happen. I am sure of it!

~ Murray Lincoln ~

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Dad! That is HUGE. With even greater things ahead.