Meet Jude Clyke: Advocate for change for Black offenders and employees

Jude Clyke

People. That’s what inspires Jude Clyke to come to work every day. Jude’s lifelong passion and commitment to helping people succeed—both in his community and at work—are why he was recently recognized as the 2021–2022 recipient of the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) Emerson Douyon Multiculturalism Award.

“Jude is impeccable with his word, and genuine when it comes to advocating for community and people,” said Laura Geier-Ennis, a former colleague. “This isn’t just a work thing. It’s how Jude lives his life.”

Jude, who has worked for CSC for 24 years, is currently a Project Officer in the Anti-racism, Diversity and Inclusion Directorate at National Headquarters. His career had a serendipitous beginning.

Serendipitous career launch in corrections

Jude started his career at CSC in 1999 at Springhill Institution in Nova Scotia. He later became a parole officer at Springhill Institution before becoming a community parole officer at the Dartmouth Parole Office in 2003.

According to Jude, getting a job at CSC was serendipitous. While working at the local Nova Scotia community college for the Black Educators Association, he had organized a CSC job fair that targeted recruitment for the Black community. At the fair, CSC was offering an entrance admission test. In order to encourage others in the community to write the test, Jude took it himself.

“I said I would write the test myself, having no interest or expectations of a career in corrections. I was successful… and 24 years later, I find myself still here,” said Jude.

A number of other men from the Black community in Truro followed his lead, wrote the test at the job fair, and were also hired as correctional officers. One of them was Corrie Tynes, who grew up with Jude and considers him both a friend and mentor. Corrie eventually became Jude’s parole officer supervisor.

“Jude is a once-in-a-generation individual. He’s just such a leader,” said Corrie. “His objective is to enhance Black communities in Nova Scotia, and he works hard every day to bring this to fruition.”

Jude has always championed change and empowerment for Black people. When he was 19, he was chosen as the youngest of 15 members from his community to go to Flint, Michigan, to learn about the success of an alternative education program in Black communities. The Canadian contingent hoped to introduce similar programming to benefit their community in Truro, a well-established Black community with a long history dating back hundreds of years.

Jude was a born educator. He came back from Flint with ideas and his passion, and started an Afro-centric after-school tutoring program, a Saturday program, and summer camp for kids ages five and up.

He brought his love of teaching and advocacy with him when he started his career with CSC.

A strong advocate for Black offenders

“I was coming from the Black Educators Association. I was an advocate. When I came into the institution, I was advocating for the same rights that I was advocating for outside,” said Jude.

His interaction with the offenders was unorthodox. He greeted Black offenders in the same way he would greet acquaintances in his neighbourhood. His style was met with opposition from some co-workers who saw a clear line between offenders and staff. Jude never saw that line.

“There is a need for individuals to be seen and heard and to have some connection. So, if you are in an institution, there is cultural dislocation. If there isn’t anyone who looks like you, who talks like you, your culture isn’t affirmed,” said Jude. “To have a correctional officer who is in a position of influence take time out to say, ‘Hey brother, how are you?,’ and have a conversation, it makes a difference. Being a PO, it was natural for me. In the community I grew up in, it is just what you are supposed to do.” 

Working out of the Dartmouth Parole Office, Jude supervised offenders in the Preston areas, populated largely by Black Nova Scotians. He moved to the Truro Area Parole Office in 2010 where his area of supervision included two institutions, Springhill and Dorchester in New Brunswick, as well as rural supervision in fishing villages and small, isolated communities

Jude was determined to find ways to help offenders reintegrate. He visited offenders in the institutions. Then, with the support of his supervisor and the respective management teams, he created opportunities to bring eligible offenders out of the institution to a Baptist church frequented by the local Black community in Truro. There they met with professionals, such as social workers from the Association of Black Social Workers, and had discussions about cultural dislocation and a host of other meaningful topics.

Jude saw the positive effect this had on the offenders. Other parole officers joined the meetings to find out what was happening. They engaged in conversation with offenders, who were respectful, and saw them in a new light. It was an educational opportunity for all.

“I love the fact that I was able to provide offenders with the opportunity—with a connection—to empower them to help people believe somebody still cares,” said Jude. “It comes back to the idea of treating individuals like people, not statistics, and not bringing the privilege we occupy, the judgement, and bias. We’ve all got bias and that is our charge to unravel that bias; to mitigate what that means.”

In 2010, Jude helped develop the successful Youth Skills Link Program, providing offenders with employment skills and experience to find a job or return to school. He interviewed offenders at various institutions and community sites to be participants, and was involved in their supervision during release. He now works with the Crown in Truro to develop culturally specific interventions to support Black people who come in contact with the criminal justice system, and was appointed to the African Nova Scotian Justice Institute in 2022.

Jude informally mentors youth in his community. He is certified in life coaching and created Unshackled Solutions Life Coaching and Consulting to support professionals who are seeking more purpose and fulfillment in their lives.

The group, Community Strong.

Jude created a group in Truro called Community Strong, and brought local Black members of CSC and the RCMP in to join them in mentoring youth in their mid 20s and 30s. It had a positive impact on the youth, inspiring them to work in community development or in corrections.

Addressing equity, diversity and inclusion at CSC

In May 2021, in response to the Clerk of the Privy Council’s Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service, CSC established the Employment Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team in the Human Resources Management Sector. Jude was selected to the five-member team, which has since grown to 13. He focused on organizing CSC’s Black Employee Network (BEN), and running events for staff to discuss ethnocultural issues, such as the national Open Mic events with the Assistant Commissioner, Human Resource Management.

“I am so inspired by Jude. He’s very humble in his approach, but he really can move mountains,” said Laura Geier-Ennis, a senior advisor in the team. “He’s such a leader, but allows others to lead as well. The way he formed the Black Employee Network demonstrates how he brings people together and makes everyone feel that they are a full and equal participant.”

Jennifer Walcott, a former colleague of Jude’s on the Black Employee Network Working Group fondly refers to Jude “as the ‘heartbeat’ of CSC’s first Black Employee Network.”

 “Jude is a mecca of information and ideas regarding the integration of, diversity and inclusion for Black employees at all levels and in all sectors within Correctional Service Canada. Amongst his many strengths is Jude’s ability to choose exactly the right words to express a point, deliver powerful messages, or encourage a colleague by providing advice and guidance.”

Working in the Anti-racism, Diversity and Inclusion Directorate, Jude is ideally positioned to help CSC address those systemic barriers and make the necessary culture shift.

“Jude has positively impacted every level of our organization in addition to a multitude of our partners,” said Adele MacInnis-Meagher, Acting Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Operations. “His contributions, in terms of progressing diversity and inclusion within our service, is remarkable. His work has been pivotal in leading us to identify and address systemic barriers for ethnocultural offenders.”

For Jude, receiving the Emerson Douyon Multiculturalism Award is recognition from colleagues that validates the work he is doing, and confirms the importance of his continued investing and believing in the mandate.

Congratulations and thank you, Jude, for the critical work you do every day! You are an inspiration to your colleagues and a beacon of hope for many.

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Congratulations Jude! Wonderful and inspiring to read your story, and the well-deserved recognition for your work.