Research from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) shows that there is a connection between positive family relationships and lower rates of recidivism.
This is at the heart of the Canadian Families and Corrections Network (CFCN), which focuses on families who have someone that they care about inside.
CFCN works to keep families strong. The organization’s goal is to “build stronger and safer communities by assisting families affected by criminal behavior, incarceration, and reintegration.”
CSC is proud of its long-standing partnership with CFCN to support offenders and their families. The work that CFCN does helps the Service meet its mandate for offender reintegration and public safety.
In 2019, CSC embarked on a new initiative with CFCN to expand their successful Visitor Resource Center (VRC) program in Ontario across all five of CSC’s regions. The VRC program helps normalize family relationships and the parent-child bond during visits.
Through this initiative, CFCN sent packages to CSC’s institutions with resources to encourage family bonding in the visiting areas and private family visit spaces, when in-person visits can occur, and resources to support inmates in their return to their families.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CFCN has identified new ways to sustain this initiative when their staff and volunteers cannot enter the institutions. CFCN launched Family Resiliency Sessions to encourage positive well-being, family connections, and supportive relationships. CFCN’s trained volunteers have one-on-one structured sessions over the phone.
“It’s easy to feel alone and hopeless in prison, but this program shows me that hope and companionship are still attainable,” said one man in Atlantic Institution who participated in a session.
Another participant at the Federal Training Centre agreed.
“Finding the strength to maintain healthy, committed relationships while one of you is on the inside can be overwhelming even at the best of times and resiliency doesn’t come cheap. It is something that you have to earn day in and day out,” said the participant. “This program reminded me of what I am capable of at a time when everyone can use a reminder.”
CFCN is also distributing Prison Letter-Writing Kits to encourage families to keep in touch. “The kits are helping us to open the door to some good conversation about how they are connecting with their families and friends in the community,” said Kory Abrams, Manager of the Structured Intervention Unit (SIU) at Stony Mountain Institution.
The hope is that all of these resources will provide support for inmates and institutions during this challenging period. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CFCN also began offering the Dad HERO program by telephone in CSC’s institutions across the country, where HERO stands for Helping Everyone Realize Opportunities.
“Our partnership with CFCN has allowed individuals to access a broader array of interventions - interventions that not only help offenders progress in their Correctional Plan, but that also speak to their core. Programs and interventions through CFCN are tailored to the needs of offenders, are in-line with their realities and provide support on their journey back to the community,” reflects Alexandra Michaud, Manager of Assessment and Interventions in the SIU at Atlantic Institution.
CFCN has been working with institutional chaplains to jointly deliver sessions. While CFCN delivers its programs by telephone, chaplains have been running the sessions in person. After the telephone session, chaplains discuss the information in more detail through a group discussion. For chaplains, it gives them new ways to connect with inmates and, for CFCN, the chaplains help personalize their session while they cannot be in the room due to COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures.
CFCN works to create materials, research, services, and programs for men and women in prison and their families and children waiting for them in the community, all of which is available on their website:
Please join us in helping CFCN to promote their valued work with those in CSC’s care and custody, and their families.
Canadian Families and Corrections Network’s Visitor Resource Centre Volunteer Coordinator, Sheila MacCrimmon.