Nfld. & Labrador

Prison inmate support group Turnings hopeful for long-term funding from new government

An organization that helps ex-offenders transition back into society hopes Dwight Ball's new government will answer its plea for long-term funding.

Organization argues taxpayer money would actually be saved with funding extension

Ron Fitzpatrick of Turnings hopes the new government under Premier Dwight Ball understands that cutting the group's funding would actually cost more money money than extending its grants. (CBC)

An organization that helps ex-offenders transition back into society hopes the newly elected Newfoundland and Labrador government will answer its plea for long-term funding.

Turnings, a small non-profit group that works to keep former provincial and federal inmates out of trouble and from returning to jail, receives a provincial grant that has been renewed each year. 

Turnings, known as the St. John’s Metro Community Chaplaincy until 2005, is an organization that focuses on assisting ex-offenders and provides support as they transition back into society. (CBC)

With the current economic climate in the province, the group is worried about being put on the chopping block.

Ron Fitzpatrick, who has been with Turnings for years, said while he understands government is looking for areas to cut given the current provincial economy, he hopes it realizes it could cost taxpayers even more if the group isn't there to keep people from behind bars.

"We get right now about $95,000 a year from our government to do our work," he told CBC's Azzo Rezori.

"If we keep one person out of prison, they get their money back."

Fitzpatrick said a year of provincial jail time currently costs $70,000 for a man and $93,000 for a woman. For a federal prison sentence, the costs increase to $112,000 and $130,000, respectively.

Therefore, he argues that even if Turnings keeps two people out of prison through it's programs, government will have made back its investment, and then some.

Importance of long-term planning

Fitzpatrick said the necessity for funding several years at a time goes beyond just finances, and actually means more effective rehabilitation work with the ex-inmates as well.

"You can't help anybody until you get a relationship going, If somebody doesn't trust you, you're not getting anywhere with them," he said.

"We want to be able to tell them you know, 'we're going to be there for you'. It's no good to tell them, 'we'll let you know in a couple of weeks'."

"When your base, your whole base, of major funding is the funding that comes from the government and you're only locked in for a year, it's not efficient and it's not effective"

Turnings is optimistic that the new Liberal government under Dwight Ball will mean increased funding. Fitzpatrick said conversations they had with newly Liberal MHA's during the campaign make them optimistic.

"The few conversations we've had since the election started, we've been impressed," he said. "They seem to be really sincere, and we got the feeling that they were community oriented and wanted to see things happen."

With files from Azzo Rezori

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