EDITORIAL: Inmates perform community service behind the scenes

For many of the inmates at William Head, the road to restitution, rehabilitation and reintegration passes through Sooke.

A number of offenders from the minimum security facility in Metchosin taking part in escorted temporary absence programs are regular visitors to our community. Although you wouldn’t recognize them if they passed you on the street, you may be familiar with their work.

For many years, inmates helped transform the arena at SEAPARC into a gallery for the annual Sooke Fine Arts show. More recently, others have done the grunt work making improvements at Camp Barnard, or stuffing hampers at the Mustard Seed Food Bank, making positive differences through work that in most cases may not be completed otherwise.

The one common denominator these men share is that they will be released back into mainstream society once they have completed their sentence, whether you like it or not. So, as long as public safety concerns are addressed, it makes perfect sense to take steps that help pave the way to a smooth transition.

To qualify for the program, inmates have arguably already demonstrated a desire to pay it forward with regards to their debt to society, so providing them with the opportunity to get a sense of what it’s like on the outside seems to be beneficial for everyone concerned with the ins and outs.

Those involved in the program – inmates, corrections officials and the groups they work with in the community – attest to the positives. It seems like a more logical, long-term approach than simply counting down the days and dumping them outside the main gate to fend for themselves, with the hope they can figure it out on the fly.

Whether you agree with this approach, the fact is that it appears to be working in the Capital Region. That’s true in part because the population at William Head is already screened and deemed to be within the lowest end of the spectrum regarding the risks.

As long as the community benefits from the work they do while they’re out on temporary release and there is support for the program within the community, it should be encouraged to continue. For the benefit of everyone involved, on the outside and the inside.

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