Here's what some of our clients have said about MAP.
Mentorship - A sustained and supportive relationship between individuals who share their knowledge, experience and understanding with someone who is willing to benefit.
Aftercare - Within the ability of the volunteer, to provide guidance as required to the released offender as it relates to locating and maintaining shelter, employment, positive connections in the community, a sense of belonging and spirituality.
Presence - Being a positive influence in the person's life, while maintaining respect for the time, energy and abilities of the volunteer.
(The above are MY definitions of MAP)
Who? Anyone contemplating release to Ottawa, who does not have direct family in the area, should contact MAP.
Where? Try your chaplain - Pittsburgh chaplaincy had information on whom to write to.
When? I made my initial contact by mail prior to my parole hearing.
Why? I was applying for Day Parole in Ottawa, and did not have any family or friends in Ottawa.
How? I wrote a letter of introduction to MAP Ottawa, and the Reintegration Manager was gracious enough to meet with me on each of my unescorted temporary absences to Ottawa.
What? What did I expect? Using a volunteer organization was new to me, but I hoped it would provide me with some support.
As we all know there seems to be a lack of continuity of information sources in penitentiaries, but I was able to find information about MAP at Pittsburgh Chaplaincy. Also the Chaplain at Pittsburgh had been directly involved with MAP.
I deemed it very important to investigate and understand as much as possible about my release to Ottawa before finalizing my application for day parole. This included meeting with a representative from the halfway house at their regular visits to the institution. However, I had previously been released on day parole to London, Ontario and had been unsuccessful and requested to be returned to the penitentiary after a period of two years and two months. Obviously, if I wanted to be successful on my second day parole attempt, I had to do things differently.
The National Parole Board granted me three unescorted absences to Kirkpatrick House in Ottawa. My first in-person contact with MAP was a coffee, sorry make that tea, at Bridgehead with the Reintegration Manager, who turned out to be a bubbly', friendly individual, who was open, welcoming and a wonderful listener. I did not feel that I was being judged', I felt acceptance and understanding. I continued to meet with the Reintegration Manager on each of my UTAs (unescorted temporary absences). I had a friend in Ottawa.
Eventually, I arrived in Ottawa on day parole and began to settle into the halfway house. After meeting with the Reintegration Manager on a regular basis, I was lucky enough to be provided with a team of coaches/mentors, who had agreed to meet with me regularly for one year. I was very lucky; individuals who are willing to give up their personal time to assist offenders in the community are very special individuals who must be treasured by all those offenders that they support. Why MAP? Although they receive some funding from CSC Chaplaincy they are completely independent and I must stress there is no reporting to your Parole Officer or to any other CSC personnel. Yes, your PO and halfway house counsellor will ask you if you are still meeting with MAP, because it is a positive element in your life. I now have five friends in Ottawa through MAP.
I still see the Reintegration Manager on a regular basis when she meets with newcomers at the halfway house, newcomers who need a friendly smile or a hug. I know we are blessed to have that individual on our team.
I found it very difficult to find employment in Ottawa. It was frustrating, on one occasion I thought I was hired only to find out that I was running into an obstacle regarding my offence even though on three occasions I informed the interviewer I had a criminal record. It was Friday evening, and I wasn't sure if I was going to start work on Monday or not. I had to wait and see and go to the company on Monday for their final decision. I called one of my MAP family' for his input, I received some fatherly' advice that I wanted to hear, which reinforced many of my own thoughts. I became relaxed and was willing to accept what Monday would bring. About an hour later I received another call from a second MAP family' member who wondered how I was doing. I had two friends who were concerned enough to call, to listen, and to care.
I continue to meet with my MAP team sixteen months after our initial meeting, usually at a Second Cup. What do we talk about..... normal stuff'...my work, my leisure activities, and my thoughts on prison changes and most importantly my future in Ottawa. At Christmas we went to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate the season.
So WIIFM, What's In It For Me? I can sum it up as follows; I was unsuccessful on day parole in London, for many reasons. I feel I will eventually be granted full parole in Ottawa. I will be successive because of my own efforts, but I don't want to let my MAP family' down.
Eventually, I hope that MAP will receive funding to participate in "Pre-Release Fairs" so you will be able to meet with them prior to your release, develop your own initial link to MAP and benefit from their support upon your release to Ottawa.
Stewart, a lifer in Ottawa.