About Person to Person (P2P) is a prison visitation program at the Sask Pen in Prince Albert. P2P is Parkland Restorative Justice's core program. It had been operating for 40 years under the umbrella of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan until 2014 when Parkland formed.
In 2015, P2P consistently had 60 volunteers visiting each month and over the course of the year approximately 100 inmates had received a visit. Since the program's inception in 1974, over 2,000 inmates have been visited with some volunteers driving as far away as Kerrobert, SK, a 7-hour round trip!
To volunteer, or find out more information, please fill out the contact form below.
Program Values and Identity P2P is a Christian volunteer ministry committed to demonstrating God's love. We do this by caring for those who, regardless of their beliefs or culture, find themselves excluded from community by their encounter with the criminal justice system. We seek to provide supportive, respectful friendships to current and former inmates in ways that help them build lives of integrity and find their way back into the community. These friendships also deepen volunteer's understanding of criminal justice issues. All of this serves to create healthier and safe communities, as we believe God intended.
Evaluation In 2005, P2P had a formal evaluation conducted of it's prisoner visitation program at Saskatchewan Penitentiary. The outcome was very positive, highly affirming the work P2P does. Here are some comments from the evaluation:
We believe that warm, nurturing friendship is a basic need of all people and is the catalyst that promotes healing of offenders. P2P sees offenders, as well as victims, as wounded people, and reaches out to involve those hurting people in strong healthy relationships that offer hope.
"For these people to come in here and visit us in prison, it is a big gift - a little piece of heaven."
"The visits help me feel more human that I was feeling - it has helped me turn my life around -- no more suicide attempts."
"The visits have a calming effect I guess - I can have a bad temper but I have to learn to keep it under control in here so I don't have to miss a visit."
History Written by Eric Olfert Edited by Ryan Siemens, 2013.
I would like to say a few words about the earliest history of prisoner visitation. It started by the efforts of an inner city missionary in Seattle, Washington. This missionary, Dick Simmons, noticed how frequently the young men he worked with, who were released from prison, would end up back in prison. He and some advisors assumed this was because they did not have employment upon release, so this led him to seeking out Christian businessmen who could provide employment for the released offenders with who he worked. This was called job therapy. This only provided minimal effectiveness, but some people across the Canadian border were taking note of what Dick was doing. Several BC folks thought that they might try a similar approach with a bit of a twist. They focused on providing offenders inside prison with what they thought would be a greater need, namely friendship, while the offender was yet inside. This approach was met with greater effectiveness, and even lowered the recidivism rate; that is the percentage of time fellows returned to prison. The prisoner visitation program, Men-to-Men/Women-to-Women (M2W2), started up in the mid-sixties, and other visitation programs soon followed in other provinces.
A young student at the U of BC became involved in the M2 program, brought his experiences back to Sask., and shared them with the Conference of Mennonites of Saskatchewan (CoMoS) executive. This student was Peter Neufeld, who now attends Grace Mennonite Church in Regina. The COMOS executive handed this idea over to the Christian Service Committee and they in turn looked for a person and a place where a prison ministry could take off. The logical place seemed to be Prince Albert, due to the presence of a federal penitentiary in that city. After some inquiring, it was determined to make a contact with the pastor of the Mennonite Church in P.A. The pastor’s name was Orville Andres. He seemed to have the passion and time to get a visitation program running, and so he called this program Person-to-Person, and recruited the first group of people to start visiting. The year was 1974.
This first group of people came as a carload, coming from the community of Waldhiem. Those first visitors’ names were Darcy Driedger, Henry Harms, Henry Bueckert, Jake Klassen, Jim Andres, and Jake Kraus. Slowly the idea of prisoner visitation was accepted and more people from other COMOS churches started to get involved. Amazingly, after 31 years, one couple from those first chartered members of P2P are still visiting, Darcy and Evelyn Driedger. Also note worthy, is the fact that several other chartered members have continued visiting until quite recently. Orville and those first visitors established an excellent model of a good prisoner visitation ministry, and set an early standard of commitment through their faith and dedication to P2P and service to Christ.
For the next several years, P2P experienced some steady growth, to the point that in 1980 about 25 volunteers were visiting each month. The Christian Service Committee, together with Orville, determined that an additional staff person was needed to supplement the work that Orville and his wife Kay were doing. A member of the Christian Service Committee, Oliver Heppner, recommended that a former SCBI student he had taught was nearing completion of Social Work classes and might be a candidate. In early 1981, they approached Dale Schiele, who was attending the faculty of Social Work at an extension division of the U of R in Saskatoon. Dale consented to this employment opportunity, and was asked if he could start after the completion of his studies in the summer of 1981. However, Mennonite Central Committee Saskatchewan (MCC) was also looking for a staff person to do some justice ministries work at the same time and so Dale started working for MCC immediately following his studies, and it was during these few months that the P2P visitation program at the newly constructed Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) in Saskatoon was initiated.
Near the end of 1982, Orville Andres had expressed interest to the Christian Service Committee that he would like to try his hand at chaplaincy, and so in the fall of 1982 started attending studies and training for his new position with Correctional Services Canada (CSC). Dale assumed full responsibilities for the P2P program at this point, and continued to report sporadically to the Christian Service Committee on the work of P2P. However, in the mid-eighties the numbers of P2P volunteers and corresponding numbers of inmates grew dramatically. It was evident that the make-up of the Christian Service Committee could not handle the increased load associated with the burgeoning P2P program, and that another governing body with committee members more familiar with ‘restorative justice’ interests was needed. In the early nineties P2P was handed over to the newly formed P2P Steering Committee, which in turn became an associated program, like several others, within the Conference of Mennonites of Saskatchewan.
By this time, P2P had grown in numbers of volunteers visiting at Sask. Pen., the Farm Annex beside Sask. Pen., and RPC to over 100 with corresponding numbers of offenders. At RPC, the numbers of P2P visitors remained steady, and volunteer coordinators provided good leadership to the visitation program. Some of these volunteer coordinators were Henry and Joan Harms, Martin Cross, and Jonathan and Ruth Friesen. In the late eighties, Dale was able to access funding from Contribution Funding from within CSC, so that about $15, 000 was now supplementing the amounts we were receiving from COMOS.
As P2P continued to expand its programs, it engaged in a base broadening exercise. Several interested people in P2P were asked to assist in this endeavor. Aside from attempting to broaden the funding base of P2P, there was an expectation to widen the scope of the program, especially toward reintegration work with released offenders. While considerable initiatives developed with released offenders, little else was accomplished with this base broadening task force.
In 1997, Mennonite Central Committee Sask. began to express interests in partnering with P2P in restorative justice work. In 1998, this partnership resulted in MCC Sask. providing P2P with a staff person to expand the work of P2P in Saskatoon. The VS position MCC Sask. provided to P2P has included staff persons Rudy Wiebe and Helmut Isaac. Also in 1997, Kay Andres, who had provided secretarial services for P2P since its inception, retired, and Holly Olfert became her replacement.
In 1997, “Circles of Support and Accountability” were initiated in Prince Albert, and soon spread to Saskatoon. More volunteers were now needed to meet the demands of Circle development, and while we expended new energies in these directions, we lost a little in terms of the ministry of prisoner visitation. At the same time, the work P2P was doing in Circles was gaining recognition from Corrections Services Canada (CSC), and this resulted in an increase in funding to the current level of $41,000 from CSC.
In the fall of 2012, Dale Schiele retired after 31 years as director of Person-to-Person. Along with funding cuts from CSC, transition was in the air. In recent years, interest in P2P and CoSA was growing in non-Mennonite congregations. New partners joined the work from the Catholic, United, Alliance, Covenant and other traditions. So with the blessing of MCSask, P2P and CoSA PA sought to become a new charity, Parkland Restorative Justice, in the hope of bringing new partners into the ownership of this program. The seeds of restorative justice have sprouted across denominational lines, it was time to work together in more structured and formal ways.