We often say that as the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), we couldn’t do what we do for offenders without the help of our volunteers. Captain Ed Dean, a long-time volunteer at Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan is a shining example of the impact volunteers can have on offenders.
“My role is to support the residents as they heal and learn from their mistakes,” says Captain Ed. “I receive teaching from them, and they receive teaching from me. It’s a beautiful process.”
Captain Ed has been a volunteer with CSC for over 10 years now. He helps in many different ways including providing transportation for non-security escorts, supporting women as they do their community service work and programming, attending ceremonies at the lodge, and offering a non-judgemental and comforting listening ear for the women as they deal with the emotional, physical, and spiritual effects of being incarcerated.
“The women are separated from their families and many have lost a connection to their culture,” he explains. “Luckily, they are in a beautiful facility that helps them reconnect with their culture and the community they will eventually return to.”
This, says Captain Ed, is key. Developing and maintaining ties to the community will create a healthy and supportive environment for the women to live in. Some of them are able to participate in weekly community meals, helping to prepare the food and enjoying it afterwards, and doing community work that contributes to the well-being of the community and its residents.
“Every single person in this community is important,” says Captain Ed. “That includes the residents of Okimaw Ohci. Yes, they have committed crimes, but they are still people and we need to remember that. It’s our job to make them feel that they can still be a part of our community and that they are welcomed and appreciated.”
Captain Ed understands that many people may feel that crimes should be punished and healing should not be a part of that process. From his perspective, however, and his decades-long experience with volunteering within the field of corrections, there’s only one way to do this.
“We know that most offenders will eventually return to the community,” he explains. “I would rather they do that after having learned about themselves, and with the support and resources they need to be a successful person in the community. If I can help just a little bit with that process, I’m happy!”
Captain Ed has helped more than “just a little bit” during his time with CSC, and that is why he was awarded the 2017 Taylor Award – an award given every year to an outstanding volunteer who has shown exceptional dedication to CSC. He couldn’t be more honoured to receive it.
“I am hugely honoured by this recognition,” he says. “I’ve never been in this for the reward – I just want to help people – but I am thrilled that CSC is happy with my work.”
Captain Ed encourages anyone interested in volunteering with CSC to go for it. Help make a difference, he says, you won’t regret it.