Communities make systems change

Posted on: November 23rd, 2016 By: Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane SchoemperlenAll of the calls to action already mentioned in the previous blog posts (humanizing people in prison & advocating for programs that work) help to create and strengthen system change in big and small ways. The work of larger structural change is long term, often slow work: Not for the faint of heart, but everyone can still play a role.

Here are a few ways you or your friends can contribute toward society and system changes.

  • Male Allies Against Sexual Violence – Through public education, the Male Allies program invites men and boys to be leaders in the work of ending gender-based violence. Their goal is to encourage critical introspection in men and boys, which begins by helping them to understand gender-based violence as a men’s issue. Over the past eight years, they have offered hundreds of workshops to thousands of men and boys and have just started a ground-breaking training initiative with the Ontario Hockey League.
  • Learn more about the root causes of crime. In order to prevent something, it’s important to understand the contributing factors. As a community, we have the responsibility to address these conditions which hinder healthy development and can lead to criminal behaviour.
  • Learn more about Smart on Crime approaches to addressing crime. Everyone has heard about tough on crime, but what about Smart on Crime? As a community, we can use language that shows we can build a community that is safe and vibrant for all people living in Waterloo Region.
  • Follow the advocacy work of Howard Sapers – Until recently, Howard Sapers was the Correctional Investigator of Canada responsible for the investigation of individual and systemic concerns. He was also a guest for a 2015 Friends of Crime Prevention event. On November 8, the Ontario Government appointed Mr. Sapers to be an independent advisor on corrections reform and to provide advice to the government on the use of segregation and ways to improve the province’s adult corrections system.

When we have people and community organizations working at all three areas of action to humanize people in prison and reduce stigma for loved ones, advocate for programs that work and enter into deeper levels of system and societal change, we can move the needle on progressive change.

If you decide to take some action, we would love to hear about it – 6 weeks from now, or 6 months from now! Get in touch with Juanita Metzger to share your story.

Advocate for programs that work

Posted on: November 23rd, 2016 By: Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane SchoemperlenInevitably, the Turn the Page book club discussions turned to the support provided to people in prison while they serve their sentences and the programs and support available during parole or upon release. Many people in attendance admitted to not knowing the reality facing people on the ‘inside’.

The past 5-7 years have seen a cut in federal funding to several prison support programs (inside and outside prisons) that have shown to be effective in reducing recidivism, building skills for reintegration and providing support to some of the most stigmatized prisoners, people who have sexually offended.

You might be interested in supporting these programs with a donation to keep them going. Or, as someone suggested at the book club event, you might want to write a letter to your Member of Parliament advocating for increased funding to support these valuable programs.

  • Lifeline provides support and transitional housing to men who have served a life sentence as they prepare for reintegration into our communities. Funding for this program was cut in 2012/2013. Some Lifeline programs are still offered through various St. Leonard Society organizations.
  • Circles of Support and Accountability is a Canadian-made restorative justice program for men and women who have committed serious sexual offences. CoSA allows the community to play a direct role in the restoration, reintegration, and risk management of people who are often seen with only fear and anger. COSA experienced the same severe federal funding cuts as Lifeline in 2014 and has spent a great deal of time figuring out how to support a nation-wide program of COSA chapters. They have even some sample letters already prepared which you could use to advocate for reinstated funding for COSA.
  • Prison farms have been a part of 6 federal prison institutions since the establishment of correctional facilities in Canada. They were defunded and closed by the federal government between 2009 – 2013. Prison farms provided beneficial employability and training opportunities, time management and responsibility skills, animal therapy, productive labour and physical exercise, access to nature, individual and team building work, and training in farm management and operation. There are many advocating for the return of prison farms as a prosocial training opportunity for inmates. Project Soil published an excellent case study of the prison farms at Frontenac and Pittsburgh Institutions, both Correctional Services of Canada facilities in Ontario.
  • Here is a 59 minute film about prison farms in Canada – Til the Cows Come Home.

If you’re super keen, someone suggested having a letter writing party – invite your friends, invite your neighbours!

There are certainly more prisoner support programs that are proven to work, but these three were discussion specifically at the event.

Also check out the call to action for humanizing people in prison and reducing stigma for families and loved ones and opportunities to be involved in systems and societal changes.

Ways to humanize people in prison & reduce the stigma of loved ones

Posted on: November 23rd, 2016 By: Juanita Metzger

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane SchoemperlenThe Turn the Page book club stimulated a great deal of discussion about the stigma. Society, in general, has a negative stigma against people that have been in prison and often their family member and children too.

People began to ask questions: How do we change this attitude in society and within ourselves? Given that we have a federal prison for women right here in Waterloo Region, how can we help within our own community? How can we get involved?

We’ve pulled together a range of potential ‘calls to action’ that help to humanize people in prison & reduce the stigma of loved ones. As Diane and the panelists reminded us, people in prison will leave prison when their sentences end and return to our communities. Reintegration to life on the ‘outside’ doesn’t happen by magic.

There are countless ways to be involved, likely more than we have to share, but here’s a start.

To start.. Read the Book! If you didn’t get a chance the first time around, it’s still available to borrow at KPL, WPL and Cambridge or get it for sale at Wordsworth Books in Waterloo. We developed a reading guide that might be helpful for checking some of your assumptions and thinking broadly about this issues Diane challenges us with.

If you have a book club, get them to read the book too! We’ve even created a handy Reading Guide to accompany the book.

One of the best ways to start in this area is to work directly with or support the organizations that work with inmates and their families.

  • STRIDE is a program of Community Justice Initiatives. STRIDE helps women in prison build informal networks of support that assist them as they reintegrate back to the community. They also prepare the community to receive them safely and supportively. CJI has several other programs that offer support to offenders.
  • John Howard Society Waterloo-Wellington offers diverse prevention, diversion, intervention and educational services for children, youth and adults who are in conflict with the law or at risk of getting there.
  • Elizabeth Fry Society for Kitchener Waterloo provides gender-specific services, support and advocacy for women within the community, involved in a judicial process or who are serving sentences at Grand Valley Institution for Women, a federal prison for women located in Kitchener.
  • Volunteer at Grand Valley Institution – The Correctional Service of Canada has a volunteer program that works directly with recreational activities, classroom and workshop instruction, and cultural or chaplaincy activities and supports families of offenders or helping released offenders re-adjust to life.

These are all very different volunteer opportunities and if you are very interested, best to do the research and find the best fit for you and your interests. You might discover that you prefer a community based approach rather than a formal institutional setting.

Check out the ‘calls to action’ related to advocating for programs that work and creating system change.

When a book club leads to community action

Posted on: November 23rd, 2016 By: Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane SchoemperlenAt first glance, Diane Schoemperlen’s memoir “This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications” seems straight forward, in its own way, the stuff of TV shows and movies….  An author meets a fellow volunteer at a Kingston soup kitchen whom she knows has been is in prison, they become friends, they eventually develop an intimate partner relationship, they try to navigate the world inside prison and outside prison, they try to manage life together on the outside, the author leaves the relationship that has become abusive and spends the next six years healing and putting her life back together.

After spending an evening with Diane at the Turn the Page Book Club hosted by the Friends of Crime Prevention we have a deeper understanding of the complexity of this story. The story of their relationship covers tough issues tied to root causes of crime, such as family violence, sexual violence, and problematic substance use. Schoemperlen is unflinching in assessing her own motivations for staying in the relationship, as she comes to know the shadow and stigma that institutionalization casts over inmates and their loved ones.

Maybe slightly unorthodox for your average book club, Friends also brought together a community panel of Jennifer Hutton (Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region), Chris Cowie (Community Justice Initiatives) and Shannon Moroney, author of Through the Glass to discuss the themes of the book in more depth and draw some direct applications to our community.

From the discussions between Diane & the panelist and the question/answer period with the community readers, we covered more content and topics than your average university course! Discussion ranged from childhood abuse/trauma to incarceration rates, from restorative justice to the lack of helpful prison programs, from reintegration challenges for released inmates to stigma faced by loved ones and family members of inmates, from abusive relationships to support networks for families of inmates, from the prison industrial complex to… well, I think you get the idea. Diane’s is a personal story that shines a light, not only on her own experience, but deftly directs a laser beam at the prison system in Canada. Diane skillfully tells a political story through her own story – a story that concerns us all.

Over the course of the discussion, people began to ask questions: What we can do to change a system that is clearly not working? Given that we have a federal prison for women right here in Waterloo Region, how can we help within our own community? How can we get involved?

We’ve pulled together a range of potential ‘calls to action’ and avenues for participating in creating change. Clicking on the links here will get you started.

If you decide to take some action, we would love to hear about it! Get in touch with Juanita Metzger to share your story.

Prisons, Justice and Love: Turn the Page Book Club hosted by Friends of Crime Prevention

Posted on: November 16th, 2016 By: Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council

When you host a public book club, you just never know how things will unfold, much less when you host one with the title “Prisons, Justice and Love”! But we couldn’t have had a more engaging night if we had tried!

Friends of Crime Prevention were pleased to host the first ever “Turn the Page” Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen in November 2016. Scroll through the photos below for a short photo essay of the evening together with community partners, neighbours and Friends.

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

This is not my life by Diane Schoemperlen – our first book club selection for the Turn the Page Book Club focused on prisons, justice and love. A very entangled combination!

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

Friends of Crime Prevention, Jenn Robinson (middle) and Lisa Armstrong (right) were the most friendly greeters! Great to see so many new faces.

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

As people gathered for the evening, Friends of Crime Prevention had the opportunity to let us know why they are a Friend. Jeanean Thomas – because I care about my community

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

As people gathered for the evening, Friends of Crime Prevention had the opportunity to let us know why they are a Friend.
Pari Karem – Why not?!

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

Thanks to John and Wordsworth Books for bringing extra copies of Diane’s book for sale!

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

The inaugural Turn the Page Book Club was held at Fresh Ground, a new cafe & community space developed by The Working Centre.

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

48 people gather to hear Diane read from her new book “This is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and other Complications.

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

Diane reads the first line of the her book, a first line she is quite proud of! You’ll have to read the book to find out why this line still makes her laugh! Or listen to her interview with The Current on CBC Radio where the host reads it out loud.

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

Diane reading some of the more emotionally challenging parts from her book.

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

People came prepared! Many had read the book and had very insightful questions. Others came because of the topic, but bought the book by the end of the night!

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

In addition to a talk and reading by Diane, we invited additional panel members from the community & beyond to complement the discussion of prisons, justice, stigma and relationships. From left: Mike Farwell, Moderator; Diane Schoemperlen, Author; Jen Hutton, Women’s Crisis Services Waterloo Region, Shannon Moroney, Author of Through the Glass; Chris Cowie, ED Community Justice Initiatives

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

A very intent and listening audience!

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

Chris Cowie from Community Justice Initiatives shared about the agency’s Restorative Justice mandate and how a more restorative process in prisons could help in countless ways i.e. better integration into society upon release, deeper understanding of the nature of offending, development of new skills to deal with conflict. Teaching and using restorative justice early can also be a prevention tool.

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

With all the new faces in the audience, it was a great opportunity for many to learn about w hat it means to be a Friend of Crime Prevention!

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

It only take a few minutes to become a Friend of Crime Prevention – just like Jen Hutton!

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

Both Diane and Shannon took time to sign books for anyone who wanted. Also a chance for great conversations.

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

Diane and Shannon proudly display their “I am a Friend” buttons. Diane and Shannon were made honorary Friends and join Howard Sapers and Sir Neville, a guide dog, as Honorary Friends of Crime Prevention.

Turn the Page Book Club with Diane Schoemperlen

It was very special to have Shannon and Dianne together in the same evening. Shannon acted as a mentor to Diane during the writing of This is Not My Life. Shannon wrote her book Through the Glass about the life upheaval after husband confessed to the sexual assault and kidnapping of two women. Both Diane and Shannon have rich stories from which our community can learn so much! Diane and Shannon are pictured with Sarah Anderson, event organizer and facilitator from the Crime Prevention Council.

What we’re reading: Where we live matters

Posted on: January 8th, 2014 By: Juanita Metzger

Report Cover: Where we live mattersTitle: Where We Live Matters | Place-based neighbourhood work – A review, promising practice and an approach
Authors: Jody Orr and staff of Community Development Halton

This new publication from Community Development Halton is a comprehensive read for any community development animator who works directly in neighbourhoods. Recognizing that the landscape of community work has changed dramatically in the past two decades, Orr and her associates urge us to adapt our approaches with the changing needs of our communities. And in case you’ve missed it, communities have changed!

This 70 page publication makes the case for ‘place-based neighbourhood work’ and details an engagement framework (pictured below) – An Approach to Building Neighbourhoods. Community work never follows a linear process and “Where We Live Matters” recognizes that neighbourhoods operate in a cyclical, repeated fashion between all stages of the engagement process depending on the issue or situation and the people involved in the work. It’s messy, chaotic and creative work and it’s hard to capture it accurately on paper!

Model: Approach to building neighbourhoods


What I like about the model (pictured above) is that they break down the engagement process into more managable building blocks. I can’t recall ever seeing ‘readiness’ so prominantly placed in an engagement process – we all know it’s necessary – so glad to see it named in plain language. I think the distinction between social capital and social capacity is important. Too often, they are used interchangeably, but they truly are distinct concepts in community building.

The remainder of the article outlines:

  • the key characteristics of communities in which effective community building processes have been carried out,
  • the personal and professional qualities and skills of the people involved in effective neighbourhood work
  • best and promising practices in neighbourhood work, focusing on place-based activity
  • a brief history of place-based neighbourhood work

When you read the brief history of place-based work (Appendix 1), it’s easy to see how far community work has strayed from the direct neighbourhood level. “Where We Live Matters” urges a shift from the universal, service delivery approaches of the past decades, revisitng the classic community development approach of place-based work. There’s no denying it; there are unique and pressing needs in specific geographic areas of every city, town and municipality. Try as we might, universal approaches will never reach the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in our communities. The work needs to be done where it matters most – in neighbourhoods where people live, and with peole who live there.

There’s a subtext to this article that is hard to ignore. It speaks to the role of traditional service delivery institutions, large systems and govenment social policy. Essentially… these entities are too slow and inflexible enough to respond to the needs of neighbourhoods. Often, these systems and institutions are so policy bound that they actually become an obstable for the communities they are designed to be helping. Which reminds me of so many stories from the very wise Jim Diers who claims that government and large agencies are often the greatest stumbling block for neighbourhoods and communities.

Isn’t that upside down?

As a community practitioner and animator myself, it’s always refreshing to come across good applied research and this one is solidly rooted in practice and the experience of people working effectively with neighourhoods. The authors draw on the work of pioneers of community work such as:

  • Joh McKnight
  • John Kretzman
  • Bill Lee
  • Margaret Wheatley
  • Paul Mattessich, Barbara Monsey & Corinna Roy

“Where we live matters” is not new earth-shaking work, but resonates with my own community work as an animator and echoes the growing plethora of place-based initiatives such as:

To better understand the document, check out this Tamarack podcast with Joey Edwardh, Jody Orr and Rishia Burke of Community Development Halton. They lead you through this resource document including an exploration of what inspired the investigation, the important role of an “animator” who enlivens and encourages development in community, funding for work that is hard to measure, and more!

After reading “Where we live matters” I wanted to go pull the McKnight, Kretzman, Lee and Wheatley books from the bookshelf and get reacquainted with the foundations of place-based work. There’s inspiration to be found for our daily work.

But most importantly, “Where we live matters” reminds us that what goes on in our neighbourhoods and the quality of life there has the greatest impact on our quality of daily living. We absolutely should be investing in neighbourhoods.



What We’re Reading: Rescuing Policy

Posted on: January 28th, 2013 By: Anthony Piscitelli

How can government solve the complex issues facing society?

It may be, relatively speaking, straightforward for a government to cut taxes or make the trains run on time but alleviating poverty, reducing crime or eliminating pollution are problems too difficult for government alone to solve. In a previous video post, I discussed how politicians react to public opinion by creating public policy. I argued for a complex relationship between public opinion and policy. I’m about to contradict myself….. this is not always the case. In some instances political parties attempt to react directly to public opinion and create straightforward policy solutions.

In Rescuing Policy: The Case for Public Engagement, author  Don Lenihan argues that the ‘consumer model of politics’ is the wrong approach. In the consumer model, political parties try to address the very specific concerns of voters in hopes of winning their support. Instead of addressing the big, long term, complex issues facing society, parties try and focus on simple solutions while avoiding taking positions on anything that might lose them support.

Lenihan believes this model cannot be used to deal with the difficult problems society faces because simple solutions are generally not effective at addressing complex issues. To borrow from another book, Getting to Maybe outlines a simple problem like baking a cake beside a complex problem like raising a child. A one page recipe probably will not give you the information you need to raise a child who turns into a healthy, well adjusted adult.

Simple, Complicated and Complex Problems
Simple Complicated Complex
Baking a Cake Sending a Rocket to the Moon Raising a Child
The recipe is essential Rigid protocols or formulas are needed Rigid protocols have a limited application or are counter-productive
Recipes are tested to assure easy replication Sending one rocket increases the likelihood that the next will also be a success Raising one child provides experience but is not guarantee of success with the next
No particular expertise is required, but experience increases success rate High levels of expertise and training in a variety of fields are necessary for success Expertise helps but only when balanced with responsiveness to the particular child
A good recipe produces nearly the same cake every time Key elements of each rocket MUST be identical to succeed Every child is unique and must be understood as an individual
The best recipes give good results every time There is a high degree of certainty of outcome Uncertainty of outcome remains
A good recipe notes the quantity and nature of the “parts” needed and specifies the order in which to combine them, but there is room for experimentation Success depends on a blueprint that directs both the development of separate parts and specifies the exact relationship in which to assemble them Can’t separate the parts from the whole; essence exists in the relationship between different people, different experiences, different moments in time

From “Getting to Maybe. How the World is Changed” (2006) Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, Michael Quinn Patton

Similarly, Lenihan argues societal problems cannot be solved by a government led effort which is focused on simple solutions designed first and foremost to help win re-election. Instead Lenihan believes true collaboration between government, citizen and stakeholder groups is needed to create effective policy solutions.

Lenihan does not just criticize the current state of policy making, he also offers a solution. He recommends a model of public engagement where governments have a real dialogue with citizens. Many books and experts suggest that government needs to do a better job of listening to people but Lenihan takes this approach a step further. Instead of just asking for citizen concerns or people’s suggested solutions (i.e. consultation) he proposes that government, the public and stakeholders collectively develop an action plan with each group committing to playing a role in solving the problems identified. This is the key distinction. Most public engagement strategies stop at gathering input from citizens and then it is government’s responsibility to react to this input. Lenihan’s approach gathers input from citizens then once this input is received citizens are asked to work with government on implementing solutions.

Seeing a book defend this approach is reassuring for staff of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council (WRCPC).

WRCPC, since its inception, has consistently followed this philosophy. Our projects regularly engage the public in the work of creating and implementing solutions to complex problems. Recently, for example, we created a plan to help children & youth involved the criminal justice system and the child welfare system (commonly known as crossover children because they ‘crossover’ from the child welfare system into the criminal justice system). The plan, like any good government strategy, was developed in consultation with the community but we echoed Lenihan’s approach and developed tasks for WRCPC and tasks for community agencies like Family and Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region. It is nice to know when asking our partners to implement solutions with us we are on strong intellectual grounding.

Rescuing Policy does an excellent job of conveying the importance of shifting away from the consumer model of politics and explaining at a high level an alternative approach to consulting with the public. However, the book fails at providing the tools for practitioners to easily replicate the public engagement methods discussed in the book. Towards the end of Rescuing Policy, Lenihan touches on his plans to release a manual or textbook on designing public engagement processes. When this textbook is complete it will hopefully aid policy makers to put into practice the ideas contained in Rescuing Policy.

Rescuing Policy is available free from The Public Policy Forum. Electronic copies are available online here or you can order a copy here. If you develop public engagement processes, or want the help change the landscape for how public engagement is carried out in our communities,  I encourage you to pick up a copy of this insightful book.

Author: Anthony Piscitelli is Supervisor, Planning & Research with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. He collaborates on all research efforts published by WRCPC in addition to running the office sports pools.

What we’re reading: Network Evaluation

Posted on: May 2nd, 2011 By: Juanita Metzger

Title: Network Evaluation | Cultivating Healthy Networks for Social Change

Authors: The Centre for Social Innovation & Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation

This book addresses that big, hairy question…. How do we know if our networks are really working? In practical and theoretical ways, this small pocket-sized book, digs into the how and why of network evaluation. More than 2/3 of the book is given over to the ‘Evaluator’s Toolbox” – a series of worksheets that help you build a framework for evaluating your network.

I find myself picking up this book every now and again because I find something clever and creative each time I open the pages. It’s a great perspective shifter. As we work on restructuring the network of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council to establish the best possible foundation for social change oriented crime prevention, this little book will prove to be very handy.

Pdf copies of the book can be downloaded here. You can also purchase a copy of the book here.

For more information about the book, visit The Centre for Social Innovation.