Statistics may indicate that crime is decreasing, but its effects are no less damaging to those touched by it, and its costs to society are increasing in financial and human terms. More than 200,000 enter federal, provincial, county and city penal institutions every year, while on an average day approximately 34,000 are incarcerated and another 100,000 placed on probation or granted parole.
Since 1883 The Salvation Army has been a leader in correctional services. Still busy in the traditional environments of prison cell and courtroom, the Army now provides facilities for adult and young offenders, attendance and community resource centres, drug and alcohol facilities and undertakes supervision of offenders in the community program. Its vast experience and wide resources, coupled with its ability to change and be innovative, set the Army apart as uniquely equipped to fulfil this challenging and demanding work within the community.
From the inception of the Canadian Federal Parole System, when a Salvation Army officer was the first official chaplain in a correctional institution, to management of the first juvenile detention centre in Canada, the Army has been identified with more than 250 adult and youth programs. You’ll find us involved in community service orders, pre-charge diversion, family group conferencing, pre and post-release planning, chaplaincy, substance abuse counselling, music therapy, life skills and literacy training, as well as providing circles of support and aftercare. Today, refocusing and redefining justice expectations of the criminal justice system is a priority of the Army’s correctional and justice program. “Restorative justice,” for example, rooted in indigenous spirituality and Christian scripture, focuses on identifying what needs to be done to reduce the possibility of persons being harmed again, often by rebuilding relationships and by addressing underlying social problems which led to the crime.
The Army’s correctional and justice services are provided by 44 Army officers, supported by approximately 350 staff and 557 volunteers. Statistics recorded last year confirm that The Salvation Army conducted 62,054 interviews, made 31,291 visits and provided 47,723 residential bed days, encompassing almost 600,000 man hours. In addition, we held more than 1,600 worship services attended by more than 28,000 people.
As impressive as statistics can be, the true value of this service is best seen in terms of lives restored and of people helped during times of great stress and anxiety. More than 80 years ago, Doctor Gilmour, Parole Commissioner for Ontario, said that there would always be a great need for some moral and spiritual force within the criminal justice system. The Salvation Army’s criminal and justice services remain as committed today as they were then to be such a force. This is well expressed in the department’s mission statement, “to minister to offenders, victims, witnesses and other persons affected by, and serving in, the system, by practical assistance and through a demonstration of Christian love and concern.”
Since 1883, The Salvation Army in Canada has been a leader and innovator in the provision of programs and services that meet the needs of individuals involved in the Canadian criminal justice system.
From the court room to the prison cell to the community at large, The Salvation Army takes a four-pillar approach to corrections: chaplaincy, community residential facilities, restorative justice and community programs.
This short movie outlines The Salvation Army’s ministry in correctional and justice services.