Report finds more should be done to help Ontario inmates adjust to life on the outside

OCDC1

A new report by the John Howard Society finds not enough is being done in Ontario to help those being released from prison reintegrate into society.

The report finds many inmates don't have access to a proper discharge plan and that leads to an increased risk of unemployment, homelessness, physical and mental illness and substance abuse issues.

In fact, according to statistics in the U.S. about a quarter of homeless shelter users in major cities had been incarcerated in the past two years. They also had a significantly greater risk of ending up back behind bars.

In Toronto about 44.6 per cent of adult male releasees from jail end up homeless or at an increased risk of homelessness due to loss of income, parole conditions and strict conditions at halfway houses.

Some of the men leaving prison end up in shelters like the Ottawa Mission.

Lynn Landis, the manager of client services said it was hard to say exactly how many men at the shelter had recently spend time in prison, because many choose not to disclose that fact.

However, she said for those who do, they often face an uphill battle when it comes to getting back on their feet.

"If they are just coming out of the prison system, they obviously don't have housing, because if they had housing before, often they lose that housing because they haven't had the means to pay for it, or the supports to help them find new housing when they're coming out," said Landis. "When they come here, that's one of our main focuses: how do we help you find stable and safe housing?"

"That's very difficult, especially if they don't have any financial means," Landis added. "One of the things we do offer is employment services, so ... can we help you with a resume, can we help you with interviewing techniques, connecting you with job searches, referrals to agencies that have work-related programs. We do all of that, but it's still difficult to come in because they're now living in a shelter because they don't have housing and being connected to something that they haven't done in a very long time or have always had difficulty in."

Some of these people end up in shelters like the Ottawa Mission .... and Lynn Landis, the manager of client services says they do what they can to help them find employment.

She said having a proper discharge plan would help keep people leaving the prison system on track, something that could also lower the risk of re-offending.