Faces of CSC: James Murphy

Let's Talk: Sharing the stories and voices of CSC

“A good understanding of what CACs are intended for is simple. It’s demystifying the nature of what corrections is to everyone concerned, whether it be staff, staff’s family, offenders, offenders’ family, and the public—regarding what is going on inside and outside the institutions.”

While Jim (James) Murphy may no longer be walking the halls of Correctional Service Canada’s (CSC) National Headquarters, he is still remembered by many, 10 years after retiring. Jim was well known and respected for his work in building community partnerships. His legacy lives on in the award named after him issued annually to honour CSC’s Citizen Advisory Committees.

Jim is particularly passionate about how important the Citizen Advisory Committees (CACs) can be to how the federal correctional system operates. Every institution and parole office is required to have a CAC to observe, liaise, and advise with CSC. Jim worked closely with CACs during his 38-year career.

James Murphy
James Murphy, Chair of the CAC Award Selection Committee, National Headquarters, Ottawa

Jim began his career in corrections in 1972 as a parole officer in federal prisons. He worked in maximum, medium, and minimum institutions, and in Landry Crossing forestry camp. The Penitentiary Service (as CSC was called before 1979), operated several of these minimum-security camps across Canada. Offenders served their sentence while clearing land for the Canadian Forestry Service.

For several years, Jim was a living unit development officer, leading security staff and supervising other development officers in the living units at Stony Mountain Institution. When Jim moved to National Headquarters in Ottawa, he focused on programs that assist offenders returning to the community. In addition, he helped leverage financial resources for many of the halfway houses operating in Canada.

As Director of Community Engagement, Jim worked with other government departments, non-profit charitable and private sector organizations. He focussed on community corrections and built strong relationships with volunteers in the community. Many of the partner relationships that CSC maintains today were established and nurtured with Jim’s contribution.

When he retired in 2013, Jim was honoured with the presentation of the first James A. Murphy Citizen Advisory Committee Award. The award was established to recognize his commitment to community partnership. Since then, the award is given annually to a CAC member or CSC staff person who embodies a passion for engaging Canadians in the correctional process. Each of CSC’s five regions each nominate an outstanding committee member. Jim, who chairs the selection committee, notes how difficult it is every year to choose the award recipient—they are all so good!

“Over ten years, incredible, remarkable people have been nominated. I know that there are hundreds more like them across the country,” says Jim. “They are merely representative of something bigger, doing something outstanding, but within the realm or context that they are representing what is good about the entire correctional process.”

Committee members are volunteers from the community. Jim notes that recruitment to a CAC is predominantly by word of mouth.

“As with many volunteer experiences, someone volunteering tells others how enriching and rewarding it is.”

Members are called the ‘eyes and ears’ of the community and act as an important bridge between the institution or parole office and the nearby community.

The idea for the CACs took hold in the 1960s in small towns that had institutions nearby. By volunteering with a CAC, members have an opportunity to learn and understand what is going on in federal corrections as part of the committee’s role is visiting inside the facility to meet with staff, senior management and offenders.

“If a CAC has a good relationship with staff at a parole office or institution, then they can have good open dialogue, particularly if they ensure representation from offenders. That is the dynamic that is successful,” Jim says. “If they have the opportunity for such a collective to speak to the public, that is extremely powerful. How offenders and staff experience day-to-day living can be an eye opener for the public at large.”

Let's Talk

Let’s Talk is a publication of Correctional Service Canada (CSC). Let’s Talk shares stories new and old of the people and programs at CSC. These stories provide an engaging window into how CSC fulfills its mission of contributing to public safety and assisting in rehabilitation. Let’s Talk is your home for informative articles, podcasts, and videos about CSC.

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