Re: “Justice system’s weak third leg,” Tom Fletcher, The Leader, Dec. 13.
I’m serving a sentence at Matsqui federal prison and my name is Mark Lukyn.
I was awed at how much it costs to warehouse us, and yes I mean warehouse. The column mentions how only one-third of the people who take programs actually complete them. The article reads like we are undisciplined and that completing a program is the answer to recidivism and behavioural problems.
The people who deliver these programs are often ex-parole officers or guards themselves with no special requirements to teach the program, other than having sat through it themselves. I have taken a five-month program (National Substance Abuse Program) and the new Integrated Correctional Program Model program.
Instead of focusing on one problem for an extended time, the new program sweeps all areas of concern with one general agonizing sweep of acronyms and confusing contradictions that are worded poorly, often confusing the instructors more than the inmates themselves.
I have personally seen people try with all their heart, attending every class, doing homework with intense passion to change, only to see them come back to jail two weeks later for the same type of offence. Others who refuse the programs, or drop out halfway through, make it out for eight years. There is no rhyme or reason and in my opinion the programs are for the most part ineffective.
I truly believe these programs are precautions the parole board takes to ensure they have a credible excuse when the inmate re-offends, so they can say “we gave him the program,” or “he refused it.” This lets the public continue to see us as villains.
I ask you bluntly, how can you or the public or anyone place such high stock in programs they’ve never seen? The public cannot attend, the media cannot attend, these programs are held behind closed doors, shielded from public scrutiny lest they lose their magical status.
These programs are like everything else government delivers, a bland chili made without care and delivered with no love.
We are warehoused, kept like dogs in a kennel, and threatened to take these programs or lose our pay. Parole is only given to those who finish the programs and if they re-offend it is their fault, not the programming.
I say that the programs are not working. The whole approach to rehabilitation is pretence to keep the public happy. We are caged for years and then lobbed into the community with conditions that trip us up and ensure a speedy return.
Many of us have deep trouble coping with life sober. Most of us have suffered through shitty home lives, ran away at puberty and have slowly offered ourselves unwittingly to the courts and institutions. Here we are herded like cattle and shuffled to court in little cages on wheels, stripped of our humanity.
Many of us are worth rehabilitation, and if the cost of keeping us in here (which is mind-boggling) were put to actual rehabilitation, we could really put a dent in those numbers of recidivism.
Okay, so what do we do right? Well it is that hard. Perhaps that is why only the bare minimum is done, because we are seen as un-helpable. We require a paradigm shift. I have finished my schooling, I now have my Grade 12, but the jail doesn’t provide post-secondary. There is no money for college.
Many men here are now old. It’s sad to see men caged so long, grey-haired and broken, swept under the carpet as a way of dealing with them. There is a terrible sense of injustice in here. Most men are simply waiting to have all the things that were taken from them – girls, food, Internet, cars, drugs and alcohol. We come out of the gates like a man in the desert dying of thirst, drinking too much water too quickly and hurting his stomach.
We are the bastards, the mutts and mongrels. The orphans of society.
Our problems are human problems, not problems that a “program” can fix. No program can heal the trauma some men suffered early on. No program can fill the hole of their father leaving, sexual abuse, years of self-loathing and pain that’s too intense to feel or deal with. These programs are topical balms that never enter the subcutaneous regions that affect real change.
As it stands, we are warehoused and fed programs that are not working.
Mark Lukyn, Abbotsford