I have trained program officers from one part of the country to the next to deliver the Aboriginal Integrated Correctional Program Model. I am proud to say I have the honour of spending time with a group of dedicated and passionate people.
Delivering a program to a group of offenders inside the walls or in the community has to be one of the most challenging positions that a person can take on as a career. Program officers introduce positive change and wellness into the lives of people who, over the course of their lifetime, have adopted entrenched harmful beliefs, thoughts, and intense emotional reactions that support a criminal lifestyle. In order to take this work on, a person has to be extremely committed to the wellness of people in general. The program officer is not only working to create positive change in the lives of their participants, but are also passionately dedicated to public safety.
Over the years, I have maintained contact with many program officers and I have come to notice that one of the most common traits of a great facilitator is that they are not only dedicated to what they do, but that they are probably the most resilient group of people I have ever met. For example, a program officer may introduce a skill that challenges harmful thinking and will be met with a wall of resistance. While it makes sense that most people resist change, the people that facilitators work with often use strong verbal protests or passive aggressive silence, all directly aimed towards the program officer.
While we are used to recognizing first responders when dealing with people who commit crimes, we must also recognize the people who work to create positive change in the offenders’ lives. Our program officers are indeed critical responders because they are face-to-face with the offenders on a daily basis, over a long period of time. They slowly and patiently chisel away at the offenders’ harmful thoughts, beliefs, expectations, and intense emotions by introducing a way of life that includes the incorporation of traditional and cultural values as a way to break the harmful cycles created by multigenerational impacts.
In Aboriginal culture, we recognize that what we do today has a direct impact on the next Seven Generations. This means that a program officer may never see the results of the incredible work they do. This is why when I train, I tell program officers to imagine the offender’s grandchildren sitting in those seats, because they will benefit from the positive changes you are introducing into their grandparent’s life today. I humbly raise my hands high in gratitude to program officers and thank them for the positive difference they are making to the next Seven Generations. And most importantly, their dedication to public safety.
All my Relations,
Kihci Têpakohp Iskotêw Iskwêw
RPD, developer: AICPM