It’s been shown that the most effective way to help someone that’s been arrested is to go through rehabilitation, even once you’ve been out of jail. One program in Edmonton has been looking to take in those that have been to jail, hoping to get their lives back on track. The program, known as Step Up, has been operated by the Alberta Somali Community Centre, and help younger male prisoners between arrest and through conviction.
Step Up helps these young men get through the process of a trial, and continue their communication while being jailed. For many, that’s made a big difference to know that someone’s there for you even at your lowest point. Financial assistance is also provided, as many of the convicts can’t afford legal fees. When released from prison, the men then come to live at the Step Up program, which can be costly for the organization, but free for the former inmates.
Because of how much it can cost to house someone for an extended period of time while also providing them with counseling for potential mental health problems that include addiction and setting them up with jobs after incarceration, the program needs more funding. It’s not a large operation in Edmonton, but can cost nearly a quarter million dollars per year. The price tag has some within the organization worried that it might shut down if more donations or perhaps government funding aren’t put into place.
Dunia Nur of the Step Up program says that there’s a long waiting list of inmates, and that she’s concerned over what could happen to them if the program shuts down. “We’re afraid of how they might be left alone without supports,” she said. “And the circle of being institutionalized, chronically accessing the system, and not figuring out what to do.” The program has proven to be successful in keeping former inmates from being arrested once again, which is why they’re hopeful that the organization can receive government support.
With a government grant, Step Up can expand their program to help even more inmates. It would mean the dozens of young men on the waiting list can end up getting support to help avoid getting a criminal record. As it sits, Edmonton has the highest amount of prison inmates per capita than any other major city in Canada, which is why it’s important for those in prison to receive the help that they need through programs such as Step Up.