For the month of May, LWC is focusing on those who are in prison.
There are 181 prisons* and over 160 community correctional centres and community- based residential facilities in our country. There were just over 39,800 adults in custody and 15,417 in remand (awaiting trial) on an average day. In addition, there are over 100,000 Canadians completing the remainder of their sentences living in the community. Almost eight times as many youth are in community supervision (6,700+) than in custody (850+).
Some key statistics to note are as follows:
- Average age of an inmate is 34 years old
- Average cost to house a male inmate per year: $116,000
- Average cost to house a female inmate per year: $211,000
- 76% of those in prison have addiction or substance abuse issues
- 81% of federally sentenced women have been sexually assaulted, many of them as children
For adults, incarceration in Canada occurs within one of two systems - provincial/ territorial (sentences of less than 2 years) or federal (sentences of 2 years or more). Within both systems, there are different levels of security classifications referred to as minimum, medium and maximum. Youth (ages 12 to 17) incarceration is administered at the provincial/territorial level.
Returning to Community
Typically, as inmates prepare to go home, there are few opportunities set before them. They are filled with anxiety and worry. The environment that they are preparing to leave is very different from where they are headed. When anyone spends time in an environment that is not their normal home, it is quite natural to be changed in some respect. They have had to adapt to a different way of living, acting and existing. The response to freedom can be overwhelming. Currently 6.3 out of every 10 former inmates will end up back in prison.
An individual that has been incarcerated has been through many changes. There have been changes in their environment, changes within themselves and changes within the people that they know and love outside of prison. This can result in a wide variety of feelings including depression, frustration, confusion and even difficulty in making seemingly simple decisions. Reliance and trust are two things that are extremely difficult for a formerly incarcerated individual.
Finances, housing, employment and transportation are just some of the needs that are relevant and important things for everyone. We also need some very important things such as love, a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. When we don’t experience these things in our lives, particularly at crucial stages, then we are more likely to seek things out to fill those voids that are left. This can lead to a lifestyle that may eventually lead to incarceration.
There are over 200 chaplains and spiritual care workers providing care and assisting men, women and youth in prisons and correctional centres across Canada. As part of their emotional and spiritual support, they listen, connect, and provide comfort to people who may feel lost or abandoned. Chaplaincy can significantly contribute to a person’s rehabilitation and readiness to return to society. Several studies reveal that the re-offense rate in Canada is approximately 63%.** Additional studies around the globe indicate that those who come to faith, or reconnect to their faith while in prison, and then return to the community through the local church, have a substantially lower re-offence rate.
*Prisons (federal, provincial and youth detention centres) may include multi-site locations. **within 2 years of release.
Click on Ways to Serve to explore some organizations and opportunities to get involved.