Help Make Change for Families of Incarceration

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Everyday families of incarceration go through stress wondering about how their loved ones behind bars are doing. So many correctional institutions have so many issues that never get dealt with or presented to mainstream society. The constant lockdowns that don't allow inmates to call home for days at a time and leave family worrying as they are never provided with the answers as to what is going on.

Correctional institutions need to change many things. They need to keep families better informed, have some compassion when family visits a loved one in an institution or inquires if there is a lockdown. There is nothing more frightening than to have a loved one incarcerated and not hearing from them. Staff in institutions need to remember that these inmates are still human and they are someone's son, daughter, mother, father, sister or brother. They have family who cares about them.

When we do hear from them the issues inside that our loved ones face are stressful to hear about. From the awful quality of food, to constant lockdowns and segregation, lack of programming to better help inmates reintegrate back into society once released. Correctional institutions should correct inmates behaviour so that once they are released they can successfully reintegrate back into society, however the system seems to set them up for failure with the lack of programming and the issues they face inside.

Family support plays a big part in the successful reintegration of inmates. Those who have family connections do better in their reintegration process and following their correctional plans. The entire prison process makes maintaining family contact hard and stressful. Private Family Visits are hard to get, visiting process is discouraging and often intimidating. Children visiting are often scared to visit as they must be put through so much and sometimes they are told they can't enter as they have hit positive on the ion scanners.

Family support should be encouraged but most families feel that incarceration ruins families. It should strengthen and maintain the relationships of family.

There is the issue of drugs inside institutions. The institutions is western Canada, especially in Alberta institutions such as Drumheller there have been a great increase of issues occurring that are resulting from drugs. Inmates seem to be constantly on lockdown as inmates are seeming to be overdosing from drugs, leaving their loved ones on the outside worried as no information is ever released.

While the drug issue inside correctional institutions will never be fully solved better preventative measures need to take place. The ion scanners have been proven to not provide accurate results and as a result they have caused many issues for families trying to visit, leaving some to the point they fear to enter. This is not helping maintain family relationships and support.

Another issue that needs to change is the issue of food. Inmates and their families know that the food issue is awful. The quality of food is horrible and the amount given is not enough to fill most inmates up. No one expects to be fed high quality food but they do want better quality and quantity of food. Many inmates do not get the proper food and this leaves so many turning to their families for canteen money, this puts financial strain on most families with a loved one incarcerated.

The issue of health care is another issue that needs to be looked at. Many inmates are not given proper health care, are denied to see medical unless it's an urgent thing. Most inmates are never taken seriously when they have a medical issue. Since the Ashley Smith case one would have hoped that issues of health care and segregation would have been improved so there are no more cases like that of Ashley Smith but this has not happened and issues continue to get worse. Inmates understand they are being punished for their actions but they should not be denied healthcare or fed garbage.

Programming is an issue that many inmates seem to wait for. There should be more programming put in place giving these inmates skills to be better rehabilitated in order to successfully reintegrate back into society. Programming should be easier to get rather than leaving many inmates to just sit and pass their time away. They should be taught the basic fundamental skills that will help them with their successful reintegration back into society and address the issues of addiction, mental health and maintaining and building positive relationships that so many struggle with.

No inmate nor their family thinks they should be given the best but we do believe they should be fed better than they are, have better opportunities for rehabilitation than what is offered and we feel that something needs to be done to help fight this growing issue of drugs getting inside the institutions. Correctional institutions need to be more family focused, be more understanding when it comes to issues of having a loved one inside and remember that even though someone is incarcerated they are still loved by someone.



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