Fair and Equal Treatment
The Elizabeth Fry Society of Northwestern Ontario believes that there must be fair and equal treatment of women who are, who have been, or who may be at risk of coming into conflict with the law, that the community has a responsibility to be active in the criminal justice system and that the role of the voluntary sector is vital to the effective realization of these goals.
One of the ways they help women in our community is through their United Way supported Volunteer Program ‘Jail Visitation & Community Re-integration for Women’. Elizabeth Fry volunteers visit the women in Thunder Bay Correctional Centre on a weekly basis, meeting with the women individually to support them and assist them throughout the court process, during their incarceration and with their release and reintegration into the community. Client-based and women centred support may include advocacy; information sharing, referrals to other support services, court support, community reintegration and personal support.. Volunteers also attend bi-weekly on Saturday afternoons to conduct group sessions which includes activities such as painting and writing, personal health education and awareness, different life skills and cultural activities. Here is the story of Christine*, whose life has been positively changed through this program:
Christine had been incarcerated at the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre for several months. During those months she regularly attended the group programming held twice a month on Saturdays. Christine looked forward to the programming and especially looked forward to arts/crafts and cultural activities such as drumming and teachings. Christine also looked forward to the time shared with the other women at the Correctional Centre along with Elizabeth Fry volunteers. She developed a very positive rapport with Elizabeth Fry volunteers during the months, feeling supported and empowered. Christine shared on several of her evaluations that the program was a positive experience for her that gave her hope.
Christine reached out to Elizabeth Fry further by requesting and attending several individual visits in order to help with release planning as the time for her release approached. At these visits she made plans to successfully reintegrate back into her community, and an Elizabeth Fry volunteer was there to assist and provide support with those plans along with providing emotional support.
It has been a few weeks since Christine has been discharged. The support and connection Christine received in the Correctional Centre with the Elizabeth Fry Society has continued on in the community. She has been to the office for six visits, working with the Elizabeth Fry office coordinator on community referrals and applications. Christine attends the office to receive emotional support as well. The support received at the Elizabeth Fry office has given her positive encouragement and assisted her in maintaining successful reintegration. Christine has even expressed an interest in giving back by one day volunteering for Elizabeth Fry Society herself so that she can pay it forward for others.
The Elizabeth Fry Society is located at 217 S. Algoma Street and can be reached by calling 623-1319.
*name has been changed