March 31, 2014

REGINA – A tough on crime federal government and cuts to education programs within prisons have made prison life much tougher and hasn't helped prisoners get out of a life of crime.

That was the principal message given March 10 to a group of Catholic Women's League and Knights of Columbus members at Holy Trinity Parish by Friends on the Outside (FOTO).

Rik McWhinney spent 34 years in prison for two separate murders, but his life turned around when he first met with FOTO members in 2007.

"You become a non-entity in prison, a number. They call you by number, not by name. Once stripped of that identity a man has to search," he told the group.

Tough on crime simply makes prisoners tougher: cast out by society, they in turn cast out society. "More are changed by hope than fear. Many more can be saved by giving them a chance."

Executive director of FOTO and former teacher Ruth Robillard stressed the importance of education for criminals. "The curiosity to learn becomes a weapon for life. Without education a person loses hope in life," she said.

Robillard stressed the importance of being able to read and that ability can lead to self education. "Funding cuts sabotaged education programs. Education is the tool for staying out of prison and off the street."

Sister ReAnne Letourneau, works in urban aboriginal ministry. She quoted Pope John Paul II, who said, "People are not the sum of their mistakes but the sum of the love of God."