Tracey Robinson started her career as a Parole Officer at Willow Cree Healing Lodge eight years ago. Prior to that she was a professor of native studies and was always intrigued by the idea of an Indigenous offender healing lodge. Today she works closely with offenders as they work toward reintegration and a better life for themselves and their families. Here is what she had to say about her work.
Why do you do this work?
I believe in the power of healing. There’s a lot of work to do in that area with Indigenous offenders and I wanted to be a part of it.
Do you think it works? Can offenders change?
I absolutely believe in change. I believe that offenders can become who they were meant to be if they are given the support they need. When you see a rough gang member come in and go through the stages of change, it’s very rewarding. When you see them enjoy waking up clean and sober for the first time, when you see them growing into a respectful man and making plans for the future, it’s very rewarding. I’ve seen this happen and it’s why I do what I do. Yes we have guys who return, but we also have a lot of success stories as well.
What do we need to know about these offenders? What are they dealing with when they arrive at the healing lodge?
When you are working with an offender, you are dealing with two things: what happened to him and what he did. This is particularly important when working with Indigenous offenders because of their social history and the generational issues that exist and contribute to their criminal history. Our job is to help them move forward so that they can go back to their families and live a good life. Part of doing this is showing them that they are part of their own solution. That it’s not an “us versus them” thing but an “I’m a part of my team” thing. Once that clicks, progress happens.
How does this work impact you personally?
Well, I’m stubborn and that’s a good thing because this work requires patience and persistence! But I do it because I love making a connection with the offenders at the heart level. I love gaining their trust and empowering them to be better. Seeing them gain confidence and unravel the ‘yuck’, as I call it, around them is something that I take very seriously, as do my colleagues. We never give up on our offenders. This is a team effort that we all contribute to. We come across some tough cases, so having my colleagues around me helps me feel like I’m never alone.
Let’s Talk would like to thank Tracey for speaking with us. We wish her all the best as she continues her work at Willow Cree Healing Lodge.