Jeffrey’s out of Jail

By: Donat Bilomba and Eileen Thoo

When we talk about corrections, the focus of conversation is often centered on offenders and victims. Consequently, we often forget the families of offenders who are greatly impacted as a result of the crime. The importance of family becomes more evident as the need for a support system becomes a necessity for offenders during and after their incarceration. The Canadian Families and Corrections Network (CFCN) is a charity organization that focuses on strengthening family relations for offenders by providing free information and access to referral services. Some of these services include referrals to various community organizations that provide information, education, mental health assistance, and support groups, among others. As the focus of the services provided is community based, there is a degree of sensitivity to ethnocultural offenders and their families.

 

A book titled Jeffrey’s Out of Jail was developed and published in 2017 as part of a collaborative effort between Correctional Service Canada and CFCN.  The book is a sequel to Jeffrey Goes to Jail which received recognition from the United Nations on the ‘Children of Incarcerated Parents’ Day in Geneva in 2011. Jeffrey Goes to Jail was a resource developed to educate children and families about the effects of parental incarceration. Jeffrey’s Out of Jail came out of the need to continue the story and to assist families and children with the challenges of the homeward journey of a loved one from a correctional institution (reintegration).

 

The sequel comes with a multicultural theme developed to reach the ethnocultural segment of the Canadian population. CFCN found this to be important as Canada has a multitude of ethnicities, each having a great deal to offer and the need to feel included. The authors wanted to make the book a true reflection of what our schools and communities look like today. This storybook is something CFCN has always wanted to achieve and the feedback demonstrates it to be a huge success. Margaret Holland, author and Ontario CFCN coordinator, explains the importance of this book:

 

“Parole is a challenging time for many families, with mixed emotions: happiness, anxiety, and determination to start a new beginning. It was my hope that the book would provide children, specifically, and families with some insight as to what the future could be so that they may prepare and move forward.”


Knowing that there is a lack of resources for children, especially for ethnic children, CFCN hopes to help families and children who deal with the collateral effects of incarceration through the publication of the book. The book allows children to understand that they are not alone. In addition, CFCN wants to help parents, caregivers, counselors, and teachers by giving them a resource that will facilitate open and honest conversation about incarceration. National Ethnocultural Advisory Committee (NEAC) member and Settlement Services Director at MOSAIC – British Columbia, Sherman Chan, stated:

 

“Through Jeff’s first person lens, the story is able to capture the reader’s attention well. The flow is warm and brings out similar challenges and experience newcomers face in their settlement and integration into Canadian society; things many newcomers, both children and families, can relate to.”

 

CFCN takes a restorative justice approach to all their work. Consequently, they are continuously considering those that have been harmed, those that have done the harm, and the community. The organization has had a long-standing, respected relationship with CSC, working with Chaplaincy, Community Corrections, Victim Services, Restorative Justice, the Women’s Sector, Community Outreach, among others. CFCN finds working with CSC and NEAC to be a great experience as both are open to new ideas and believe families and communities to be an important asset in an offender’s correctional journey. New ideas and additional funding and support are continuously being sought so that more resources can be provided to help families and educate communities across Canada.

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