The First 40 Years: John Howard Society of Nova Scotia

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1 The First 40 Years: John Howard Society of Nova Scotia Researched and Written by: Judge Robert J. McCleave, Dr. Neville Robinson & C. Robert MacDonald In his report to the Minister of Justice for the fiscal year ending March, 1951, under the heading Aftercare of Prisoners the Commissioner of Penitentiaries stated that the most notable event during the year was the organization of a Nova Scotia Branch of the John Howard Society. The establishment of this branch was made possible through the vigorous cooperation of a group of Halifax businessmen. For two years prior to that, a special committee of the Halifax Junior Board of Trade had, under the chairmanship of George Piercey, studied the need for a John Howard Society in Nova Scotia, secured initial funding from the Halifax Rotary Club, organized the Society and installed Harry Roper as its first President. The services of John Arnott were obtained as Executive Secretary. With a budget slightly over $3,000.00, a part time Executive Secretary working out of shared office space with no secretarial help, those business men launched the Society that we know today. In reviewing achievements, tribulations and innovations of the Society over the past 40 years, one must remember that this is a private agency with a volunteer Board of Directors and Executive, over 200 volunteers, a professional staff of 11 combined with 750 members throughout the province. Since the Society was almost immediately accepted in the community a sound working relationship was quickly established with the Warden and staff of Dorchester Penitentiary and local jails; with the Police and R.C.M.P., Probation Officers, the National Employment Services, the Canadian Vocational Training School and many other local organizations. The prison visiting program was so successful that by 1953, John Arnott was able to report that the Society was accepted by inmates as a source of help and that the indifference he first encountered had been replaced with a feeling of unity. By the end of the second year of operation, the budget had increased to $7,400.00; the Society had a full time Executive Secretary and stenographer and had moved to offices in Carpenters Hall which were furnished by articles specially made by the inmates of Dorchester Penitentiary. A tireless round of public addresses began to awaken public interest in the plight of those imprisoned and the woeful state of some prisons. Several resolutions were sent to the provincial legislature urging the inauguration of a probation service and a request that the dependants of inmates be eligible for financial assistance. In 1953, a Woman s Committee was formed consisting of Dr. Alice Kitz, Mrs. E. Morris and Mrs. Sarah Hyland and in that year, one female parolee was supervised and placed in 1

2 employment. Many socially conscious businessmen offered employment to our ex-offender target group and much was done to establish faith in the Society. In 1954 plans were undertaken to expand the services to the Cape Breton area. By the end of the fifth year the budget had increased to $10,000.00, half of which came from the Provincial Attorney General s Department. In 1955 the Society incorporated, published a policy statement on prison reform, probation and parole and under the sponsorship of the Sydney Rotary Club, organized a branch in Sydney with John MacNeil, Q.C. as President and A.D. Muggah as a part time Executive Secretary. In 1956 the Fauteax Commission Report was published and echoed the Society s recommendation for reform of the Provincial Corrections System made a year earlier, namely: a high degree of communication among all parts of the Corrections System, a well developed and effective system of probation and concentrated effort on treatment and training rather than mere imprisonment. The Society also recommended specialization of institutions which included the development of a small minimum security centre, a policy on treatment and training as well as greater efforts to educate the public on a sound system of Corrections and the benefits to be derived from it. An increasing number of female offenders were being released to the care of the Society necessitating the expansion of the Woman s Committee and the engagement, on a volunteer basis, of Dr. Louise Thompson of the Department of Psychology at Dalhousie. In 1957 John Arnott reported, in matters of dealing with the tragic consequences of prison sentence is it now evident that our offices in Halifax and in Sydney are the focal point to which citizens affected by the Criminal Justice System turn for assistance and guidance. In 1959 a province-wide appeal was launched to support the expansion of the Society. Leonard Kitz was Campaign Chairman and Glen Hancock Public Relations Chairman. The expansion was necessary because in the previous year the two staff members in Halifax and Cape Breton had conducted 1,638 interviews in prison and office for 535 clients. That year the Society supervised 70 parolees. By the year 1960, volunteers were located in Amherst, Yarmouth, Shelburne, Digby and Liverpool. The Society s offices in Halifax were moved to 300 Gottingen Street and for the first time, the Agency was included in the United Appeal. During this time the Society was instrumental in setting up the John Howard Society in Prince Edward Island and before that, had worked diligently to assist in the establishment of similar Societies in Newfoundland and New Brunswick. In 1961, Vincent B. MacDonald was appointed to the Cape Breton Office for the summer months to relieve the pressure of work there. A brief was submitted to the Stanfield Government in February of 1961 recommending: one, the appointed of a Director of Corrections and two, that the Government enact legislation to set and 2

3 enforce modern correctional standards in all places of detention in the province, close obsolete jails and establish provincial institutions for selected adult prisoners sentenced to more than 30 days. Also in 1961, the National Parole Service opened an office in Halifax. The following year the Atlantic Provinces Criminology and Corrections Association was established as was the John Howard Society of Canada. In 1962 Tim Daley joined the staff in Halifax as caseworker. In the same year it is interesting to reflect that 20 debtors were incarcerated in Halifax County Gaol and that across Canada, approximately 100 people were convicted of attempted suicide and one-third of them were imprisoned. A year later, Nova Scotia still held the somewhat dubious distinction of being the last province in Canada that sent debtors to jail. By 1964, nothing had come of the Society s recommendations to the Provincial Government three years before, but to everyone s satisfaction a Family Court had opened in Sydney. The increasing caseload in Cape Breton was relieved with the appointment of C. Robert MacDonald as a full time Executive Secretary. The first fifteen years of the Society s activities had seen the establishment of its three original recommendations: a Probation Service, the most effective of any of the Atlantic Seaboard; Social Assistance available for dependants of inmates and a full time Branch Office in Cape Breton. Looking forward to the Anniversary of the Society, John Arnott hoped that the harmful and wasteful conflict of purpose between municipal jails and federal penitentiaries would be solved and a truly national unity of purpose would be established for the treatment and training of all offenders. In 1967 John Arnott was presented with the Centennial Medal in tribute to his eighteen years of outstanding service to the John Howard Society in Nova Scotia. The past three years had seen a rapid increase in caseload in the Cape Breton office and the establishment of permanent quarters on Townsend Street. For the first time, in 1969, the Annual Meeting was held in Cape Breton and under the Presidency of Glen Hancock, public seminars were held to increase awareness on issues related to the Criminal Justice System. In 1970 after steering the Society through its first 20 years, John Arnott died. He was succeeded by C. Robert MacDonald. Brian Smith became Executive Secretary in Cape Breton and T.L. (Ted) Smith became the Associate Director in Halifax. The early seventies were a time of dramatic expansion and diversification in the services of the Society. In November of 1970 the John Howard Society of Nova Scotia signed the first Fee For Service Parole Contract in Canada. In 1971 the Society had the highest percentage of parole referrals for a private agency in Canada, 50%. The caseload increased an enormous 41% over the previous year and much restructuring was needed. The Halifax Office moved to 1541 Barrington Street and Cape Breton Office to 109 Townsend Street. Several new staff members were appointed and a comprehensive staff training program was initiated under the direction of Bill Greatorex. Financial assistance was made available for staff members, new and old, to attend 3

4 courses related to their field of activity at university. In 1971 the Cape Breton Branch sponsored the first Native Court Worker Program in Nova Scotia. Under the capable guidance and direction of Jim MacLean, with cooperation from the National Parole Service and the Y.M.C.A., the Big Cove Project was initiated. This project consisted of members of our target group living and working at the Big Cove Camp during the early stages of preparation for their summer activities. Unison, a private agency working with female offenders, was established through the efforts of Ted Smith, Judy MacKay and Barb Unroe. Con- Employed, a project which hired ex-offenders and parolees, to seek employment for members of our target group, was established province-wide. It was one of the first Outreach Programs of its kind in Canada and operated under the sponsorship of the Department of Manpower and Immigration. The Society was involved in setting up a speaker s forum and regular Sunday movies at the Halifax Correctional Centre to assist in the programming for inmates there. The first Temporary Absence Ballgame between the Halifax City Police and inmates released on Escorted Temporary Absences from Springhill Institution was a highlight of the summer months. With the funds derived from this exhibition series of games, the Society conducted bus trips for relatives, family and friends to Springhill and Dorchester. A serious commitment to public education resulted in visits to many local schools and a highly successful TV series, Crime, Corrections and You was shown on Dartmouth Cable. After its first year of viewing, this innovative series, one of the first in Canada, earned the Society the Atlantic Provinces Criminology and Corrections Association trophy for the most outstanding development in the Criminal Justice System in the Atlantic Region. The following year, 1973, the Society won this prestigious award for the Con-Employment Project, which had been instrumental by that time, in finding hundreds of jobs for ex-offenders. The 25 th Anniversary year saw the adoption of staff salary scales, new job descriptions and a severance package. The 1974 the Kentville Branch was opened and in 1975, Howard House opened in Sydney amid much controversy. This halfway house was the first John Howard House to be opened in the region east of Ontario. Terry Hatcher and Jerry Smith produced an Information booklet for offenders and ex-offenders entitled It s Here, Answers for Your Questions. This comprehensive document outlined services available throughout Nova Scotia for offenders who found themselves incarcerated in other parts of Canada and wanted to return home. During the 25 th Anniversary year, the Society brought Commander Peter Marshall of Scotland Yard to the province and he spoke to many criminal justice groups in Nova Scotia and was our keynote speaker for our Annual celebrations saw the John Howard Society of Nova Scotia hosting, for the first time, the National Meetings of the John Howard Society of Canada. At the end of out 25 th year of operation our Society had offices in Cape Breton, along with a halfway house, a regional office in Kentville, 4

5 along with another halfway house yet to be opened and a large Regional Office in Halifax. The Society employed 29 full and part time staff making it one of the largest Societies in Canada at the time. In 1976 following our 25 th Anniversary, a drastic decline was experienced in the numbers being released on full parole. This, combined with the expansion of Correctional Services of Canada, resulted in a loss of Revenue to the Society and caused serious financial difficulty. There followed a time of severe restraint and many projects and programs had to be abandoned. The Cape Breton office was closed and the branch office in Kentville had to be serviced from Halifax; even with these measures and substantial deficit was incurred. In spite of, or perhaps because of these setbacks, the Society continued to strengthen and grow within the Nova Scotia community focusing its activities mainly on the priorities of aftercare. This included counseling, institutional visits, help with employment and public education. Almost immediately following the severe financial restraints, the Society began to recover with the creation of a project called Employment Interaction, funded by the Department of Manpower and Immigration. A full time worker was provided to the Society to seek employment for members of our target group. A task force was set up nationally under the Ministry of the Solicitor General to assess the role of the private sector in Canada. Members of the Society met with the task force and outlined to them the somewhat unstable financial conditions that most private agencies found themselves in during the mid-seventies. A Parliamentary Subcommittee was established by the Solicitor General to review federal institutions and their programming in Canada. Under the chairmanship of Judge Robert McCleave, a report was prepared by the Board of Directors and submitted to Ottawa. As we moved toward 1977 our Public Education Program was accelerated with the creation of a John Howard Society Newsletter with Bill Kean as Editor. A film was produced by the John Howard Society of Ontario entitled Is There A Better Way?. This film was shown to over 50 groups in Nova Scotia. Glen Hancock was elected President of the John Howard Society of Canada. In 1977, Jim MacLean and C. Robert MacDonald received the Queen s 25 th Anniversary Commemorative Medal for their commitment to ex-offenders and their community. The Society continued to emphasize citizen involvement in the Criminal Justice System. Under the capable guidance of Mrs. Ruth Menear, the Catholic Women s League coordinated a book drive in Nova Scotia and made available thousands of books for provincial institutions in the province saw the commencement of what is today a comprehensive Volunteer Training Program with Paul Sherwood, Carmella Hawkes-Lavin and Bernice Dunlop our first three graduates. Huge K. Smith, our President in 1978, announced in our Annual Report that for the fiscal year ending March 31, we were able to reduce our provincial deficit by more than $11, In 1979, Judge Timothy Daley and Dr. Neville Robinson, along with Insp. Vince MacDonald, chaired the Homeless Alcoholic Committee. This committee held over 20 meetings and 5

6 conducted three seminars in the community discussing the needs and services to the homeless, including the chronic alcoholic. Hector Porter chaired the Annual Congress of the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Crime in Halifax. Judy MacKay, Eileen Burns, Bill MacMaster and Charlie Arbuckle chaired four committees and many board members participated on panels including Msgr. Richard Murphy, Timothy Daley and Jim MacLean. In the same year, Jim MacLean was elected Secretary of the John Howard Society of Canada. The Kentville Branch, which had been closed in 1976, opened under the direction of Dan Thorne. Under the guidance of Ted Jarvis, Lorraine Casey, Dan Thorne, Paul Loomer, Dick Ruppe, Ken and Lynn Munch, Gordon Swinamer and Carl Gates, A Rural Alternative was established. This project trained young offenders in farm management and upon graduation they were qualified to work anywhere in the agricultural field in Canada. A halfway house model was used. Ted Smith, our former Associate Director, provided volunteer services on the South Shore. In Amherst, Geri Williams, Ken Osborne and Colin Ormond along with Board Member, Barb Gilbert, developed community programs; one of the largest was a toy drive for needy children in Cumberland County. In 1979, the Halifax office moved to 1657 Barrington Street, Suite 220, which is our present address. We took on the sponsorship of Concern; this project, coordinated by Stella Roberts, had originally been part of Unison Society and upon that organization s demise, the project continued to operate out of our offices to provide family and marital counseling and to provide family transportation to the federal institutions. Clyde Preeper was appointed Associate Director and held that position until his sudden death in 1985; in Clyde s honour, for his dedication and unselfish work, Clyde Preeper Memorial Award was created. In his Annual Report of 1980, C. Robert MacDonald, Executive Director, stated that the Society currently had 13 functioning committees consisting of board members, volunteers and members at large. During our 30 th Anniversary, in tribute to the exceptional volunteer contribution made by men and women throughout the province, 43 individuals were honoured by the Lieutenant Governor at Government House. The John Howard Society designed a new television series entitled Crime, Corrections and You which was shown in Aylesford with the capable volunteer assistance Carol and Leo Wynott. The seeds were planted for the creation of out criminal Justice Education Program for the schools and thought the assistance of Noella Fisher, material on the Society was presented to the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia for possible funding. To develop and increase in citizen awareness of the Criminal Justice System, tours were arranged for citizens to view the federal Institutions. One of the jewels in the crown of the 1980 s has been the Criminal Justice Education Program. It proved successful wherever it was tried and led directly to the rebirth of the Society on Cape Breton under the inspired leadership of Diane Lewis. Thanks to the funding from the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia the program got underway in January of Peter Grandy was the first person to coordinate the program and between February and May of the first year, he visited an astonishing 35 schools. The program, in 1990, continues to operate throughout the province with funding from the Law Foundation and the United Way of Cape Breton. 6

7 On a cold, sunny December afternoon in 1980, 13 volunteers and 3 staff members transported 39 family members to Dorchester and Springhill. This marked the first trip of our individualized Family Transportation Program. Since its inception, over family members have been safely transported to all federal institutions including Atlantic at Renous, N.B. Partial funding was provided by the Correctional Service of Canada in the 1980 s. Exciting, innovative and expansive best described In the Halifax area a casework component was developed on the second floor of the Roy Building and Paul Gallagher was appointed Regional Director for Halifax. The fifth floor housed Clyde Preeper and C. Robert MacDonald in the administration component. Peter Grandy was appointed Regional Director in Kentville, Diane Lewis became our Criminal Justice Education Coordinator for the province and Joan Pitts took on the task of Office Manager in Halifax. Gail Ernst was added to our staff as Criminal Justice Educator for Mainland Nova Scotia. John MacIsaac, our Employment Interaction worker, was re-funded by Canada Employment & Immigration. Because of the overwhelming response to our Volunteer Training Program, a manual was developed and shared with other John Howard Societies in the Atlantic Region. In the fall of 1984, more issues were identified by our Board of Directors for study and those included the increased rate of suicide in the Atlantic Region Penitentiaries, the use of Special Handling Units and the establishment of a Young Offenders Act Committee; this committee was jointly chaired by Dr. Hugh Haley and Joe Cooper. Our brief on suicides in the Atlantic Region was presented to the John Howard Society of Canada in 1985 the first brief to the newly created National Issues Committee. It was adopted and comments were forwarded to the Solicitor General. The Young Offenders Act Committee presented its findings to the Attorney General of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Social Services. You win some, you lose some. The Society, from the very inception of the scheme to place the federal, maximum security prison at Renous, New Brunswick, voiced its objection. This prison (and at least one other in Canada, in Quebec) was designed to bring economic stability to disadvantages regions, so the federal politicians would argue. The disadvantage was that human beings were removed a great distance from the people who were most likely to support them their families and friends. The prison, however, was built. Jim MacLean continued the excellent credibility as a leader that was developed by Glen Hancock, and became President of the John Howard Society of Canada in In 1986, growth and development were the key words of our Society. A Young Offender Community Development Project was funded by the Department of Community Services for Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough Counties and under the diligent leadership of Janice Fraser, this project began activities in Alternative Measures, location and placement for Community Service Orders, Matching, Public Education and in the last year, the development of an A.L.I.V.E. Program for young offenders aged in Central Nova Scotia. 7

8 Membership throughout the province continued to increase and reached an all time high of 420 under the chairmanship of Eileen Burns. In 1985, we were all saddened by the loss of our Associate Director, Clyde Preeper. In his honour the Clyde Preeper Memorial Award has been presented on two occasions. The first recipient was our own Jim MacLean and the second recipient was Bill Noseworthy, President of the John Howard Society of Newfoundland. The principal sponsors of the Society in the 1980 s were the Canada Employment & Immigration Commission, the United Ways of Cape Breton and Halifax, the John Howard Society of Canada, Correctional Service of Canada, Province of Nova Scotia (both the Attorney General s Department and what is now the Department of Community Services) and in the latter part of the decade, the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia. Members of the Board of Directors and volunteers were active in promoting the financial well-being with such innovative projects as cow patty contests, yard sales, dunk tanks, police/inmate hockey games, etc. The volunteer component of the Agency came alive and contributed 10,000 hours in From 1974 to 1982, inflation averaged almost 10% before settling down at an approximate average of 5% for the latter five years. The Society s budget in Nova Scotia went from $146, 000 to $317,000 in Looked at another way, inflation had driven the cost up two-thirds while the Society s budget had more than doubled. In short, during a very strained financial period, the Society had managed to increase its services on behalf of the segment of the population which otherwise does not have the luxury of a voice of its own. In 1988 an experienced and knowledgeable committee from the Board of Directors, consisting of Mary Casey, Judge McCleave and Margaret Brown, was formed to examine the report of the Canadian Sentencing Commission. The report was made available to Criminal Justice personnel throughout the province and was presented to the Daubney Committee during their visit to Halifax in June. An AIDS Committee was established and this committee accepted the position statement of the John Howard Society of Canada; committee members were Dr. Neville Robinson, Joseph Cooper, Msgr. Richard Murphy and Roger Gallant. To increase public awareness, a John Howard Week was initiated in February and will be celebrated in 1990 during the week of June 11. Helen Graham-Gromick headed this committee and in 1989, a television series of the Society s work throughout the province was developed by Halifax Cable. As we enter the 1990 s it is necessary to examine our own goals and directions. Heather Weld, S.A.M. Gallant and Bill MacMaster worked diligently to prepare a Five Year Plan. This plan was approved at our Board Meeting in June of 1989 and its implementation has already begun. Annual Reports continue to tell compelling stories with statistics that must be reported. The 1987 meeting heard Diane Lewis present a study done with junior high school students in Cape Breton 8

9 that indicated 30% knew someone who was injured or killed as a result of drinking and driving. During 1987, Diane visited 35 schools and spoke to more than 4,000 students. The loss of Hector McInnis Porter shocked the Society. In 1986, his widow, Anne McCurdy Porter, allowed the Society to rename its bursary as the Hector McInnis Porter Memorial Bursary in memory of the man who served our Society for more than 30 years. There were five recipients of the Bursary in that year and there continues to be an average of five since its inception. In 1984, the Society adopted a special resolution at its Annual Meeting endorsing the takeover of all correctional institutions in the province by the Attorney General s Department. In 1988, Janice Fraser informed the Annual Meeting that the two offices in New Glasgow and Antigonish had 35 trained volunteers to call upon and that young offenders in conflict with the law had carried out 1,459 hours of community service work. Young offenders felt a sense of accomplishment by helping their community. The Young Offender Community Development Program was another fine example of something innovative in which the John Howard Society could show its leadership. The 1980 s saw the Charter of Rights and Freedoms placed in the Constitution, a Young Offenders Act and re-examination of the principles of sentencing. It was a decade whose philosophical problems were different from those of 40 years ago when the John Howard Society came into being; much of the earlier resistance toward the Society as a whole has been overcome and we are now recognized as an integral part of the Criminal Justice System in Nova Scotia and Canada. We look forward to the next 40 years with the same spirit of innovation and vigor that characterized the first 40 and we sincerely thank all the many citizens who have made our Society possible and the community a better place in which to live. John Howard Undaunted by the dangers of his work, Howard said; Being in the way of my duty, I fear no evil. In 1790, he died in Russia while inspecting a prison. He had contracted a prisoner s disease called Prison Fever. On his tombstone the Kherson Russians engraved Whosoever thou art, though standest at the grace of thy Friend. 9

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