PeerLife was created in 2012 and is funded by St.Leonard’s Societies of Hamilton, Ottawa, Peterborough and Windsor. The program draws on the legacy of the InReach program that provided peer support to long term offenders ( LTO’s) for over 20 years. It combines both in reach and out reach services.
From experience as transitional agencies, St.Leonard’s knows the detrimental effects of prolonged incarceration and the complex challenges upon returning to the community. This new service model is designed to prepare LTO’s for these challenges through specific strategies that increase the probability of successful transition from minimum security institutions to the community.
Mission: Provide a framework for programming and sentence planning for long-term offenders in the Ontario Region.
Approach: A peer support approach utilizing two experienced and credible ex-offenders and successful parolees to assist and motivate LTO’s through their sentence and reintegration into the community. The Peer Support Workers (PSW) encourage LTO’s to use their time constructively and take advantage of the opportunities for work, education and treatment programs offered to them while incarcerated.
Mr. Sauve and Mr. Rives return to the institutions to serve as a guide or coach, linking LTO’s to community resources and social experiences. PSW’s are a powerful example to inmate LTO’s that they too can be successful if they take charge of their sentence.
Scope of Work: PeerLife Transition Services focuses on the 3 minimum security institutions in the Ontario Region, Frontenac, Pittsburgh and Beaver Creek. The main tool for detailed release planning and community reintegration will be the individual interview. The two PeerLife workers serve as community guides, or coaches, linking LTO’s to community resources and social experiences. The challenge is to maximize opportunities for work releases, ETA’s, and UTA’s.
Goal: To increase the probability of successful reintegration of LTO’s in the community. Statistics show that most LTO’s are ultimately released to the community. St. Leonard’s Society believes how they are released from prison is of critical concern to our communities. From experience, as transitional community agencies, we recognize the complex challenges each LTO faces when emerging from 10 to 25 years behind prison bars.
“How you do your time inside is how you’ll do your time on the outside.” - Rick Sauve
What Peer Life means to the community places the emphasis on "Peers."
Through our longstanding experience with Lifers in the community, we learned that the support network that was developing amongst these residents, continued beyond their stay at St. Leonard's House.
A few years ago we invited current residents and released Lifers to a Workshop at the Halfway House. Ideas were brainstormed, common challenges arose and support was present in the room. All who attended expressed an interest in continuing to meet. Emails and phone numbers were exchanged.
The men who continue to attend and participate in the Peer Life Support range in lengths of time out. We have members who have been on Full Parole for over 13 years, as well as newly released Lifers' at the Halfway House.
The meetings which take place quarterly (every three months) are very informal and have become an opportunity for socialization and support. A meal is always provided. The group recently met at a local restaurant for lunch and a time for good discussion.
A Facebook page has since been developed as a way to stay in contact, and keep up to date on up and coming meetings and events.
Through these meetings, friendships and supports have evolved. Some of the Peer members have made themselves available to fellow Lifers who have limited and in many cases, no family and or community support. For example, when the group heard of a former resident Lifer on Full Parole who had a physical disability and needed help to clean his yard, they were eager to help. After two trips out to his property, the yard was cleaned and free of debris. Often just a phone call to some of these individuals helps, just to know someone is here who can relate and understand. These men often meet to go for a friendly coffee, catch a movie or go out for dinner.
For further information, please contact Michelle Graham at (519) 256 1878 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org