Michel Gagnon, Executive Director since 1991 of Maison Cross Roads community residential facility located in St. Henri, recently shared his observations of the growing issue of integrating elderly paroled or longtime inmates who have competed their sentences back into society, at a recent luncheon of The Rotary Club of Westmount.
While most of us prepare our retirement plans as we age, “lifer” inmates who have spent most of their adult lives in federal penitentiaries find themselves socially and financially challenged without direction and for the most part without family and friends when they are released.
The not for profit Maison Cross Roads provides a structured release program for Anglo men. many of whom are elderly. Statistics reveal that 23 per cent of inmates being released are 50 and 60 years, and over the next 10 years that number will increase to 30 per cent. Over the 10, 20, even 40 years of incarceration many have developed physical and mental health issues including depression, suicidal tendencies, self mutilation and PTSD. And while the federal prison system is not an industry as it is in other countries, it does deal with slow moving bureaucratic red tape that prevents change in how it deals with issues inmates face.
To deal with some of the physical issues of aging, in recent years Maison St-Léonard re-mortgaged to install a ramp and an elevator and private bathrooms. But in spite of good living conditions, with no training fulfilling employment is difficult and many sit in the home idle. Maison Cross Roads hosts an annual Dragonboat Race fundraiser in September to help not only with costs but also to develop programs that will increase quality of life for its residents.
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