Guest post from Marjean

This coming Thursday I am doing a presentation for a group in Abbotsford who volunteer to help support offenders in the community. They are training some new volunteers and I sort of challenged this group a while ago to add a victims component to their training. It is a church based group and the naivety of some of these people can be something else. One time I was talking with someone who was thinking of volunteering with offenders and when I asked her why she said that she saw a certain kind of “innocence” in someone that has been incarcerated for 20 years.

Advocates for offenders’ rights have somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 active volunteers and have had as many as 400 over the last year. And that is just one group here on the lower mainland of BC – There are many other church-based support groups for offenders who get all kinds of church and government money.

Try to find just a handful of volunteers who will work with victims. Money available? – not a chance. The only group I know of in all of Canada is Wilma Derksen’s Victims Voice, and you can bet she does not have a budget to train and coordinate volunteers that number in the hundreds.

Another thing that gets me is that most of the church based offender support groups tout Restorative Justice and go on and on about how it

benefits victims – how does something benefit victims when there is no victim

involvement, except when the offender decides he wants it?

A friend and I went to a banquet one time in Vernon, BC that was put on by a church group that said it was practicing Restorative Justice. The guest speaker was Pierre Allard of Corrections Canada. He went on and on and on about how Restorative Justice benefits victims, is victim centered, etc, etc, etc. One of the things he said was that, “victims were in a prison of their own making, born out of a need for vengeance.”

This was so wrong. It was nothing more than an effort to recruit volunteers to support offenders. I don’t think he even knew or suspected there might be a couple of victims in the audience. We were so upset at his speech.

After, I asked the coordinator what sort of support systems he had in place for the victims. He muttered under his breath “Well, we have a Bible study but no one wants to lead it.”

There is just so much work for victims that still needs to be done. I just hope I see this necessary work completed in my lifetime.

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