Life after prison

Michel Gagnon talks to Dawson about the possibilities for criminals after being released from jail

by Ashley Couillard

Michel Gagnon, the executive director of the Maison Cross Roads program, spoke about crime, punishment and rehabilitation on Wednesday, March 24 at the Dawson Theater.

Gagnon helps operate a non-profit organization called Maison Cross Roads, that offers half-way houses for parolees, services to prisoners serving life sentences and support for the prisoners and parolees over 50 years of age.

He started his career in Edmonton and worked in the Indian reserves with people who’ve been abused and have been struggling with alcohol and drug addictions and he owrked with children who’ve been sexually abused.

“I worked with children who’ve been sexually abused and it was a very enlightening experience,” Gagnon said.

He moved back to Montreal in 1991 and has been helping criminals rebuild their lives after having served their prison sentence.  Most criminals do not know what to do with their lives after living in prison cells for 15 to 25 years and being isolated from the outside world.

“You have to structure them sometimes because most of them depend on that, they need it,” Gagnon said.

The average age that people come out of jail is approximately 47-years-old but it used to be 30- years-old. The older the people are when they leave jail, the less likely they are to know what to do with themselves. Eighty percent of people that have been in halfway houses were still on the streets when they came out.

“Our goal is to get them to live within their means and not mess up their life again,” Gagnon said.

Over 3,000,000 Canadians have a criminal record and many are sentenced to jail for long periods of time.

Contrary to popular belief that criminals lead the good life in prison with their televisions and couches, many don’t know what to do with themselves and all the time they have and resort to self-abuse and commit suicide.

Maison Cross Roads is there to help people who’ve committed crimes rebuild their lives and move forward.

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