The Kamloops story has roots back as early as 1933, when J.D. Hobden (then Executive Secretary of JHSBC), speaking to the Kamloops Rotary Club on the work of the John Howard Society, made the following comment:
“Frankly, your city jail is sordid, dreary and dingy. The cells are of the semi-dungeon type. How on earth are men to look up and gain back their self-respect in such surroundings? It cannot be done……Kamloops jail in 1933 is a long way behind the standards of John Howard in 1773” (Wilton, pg. 192)
J.D. Hobden no doubt ruffled a few feathers with the above speech yet he must have also earned respect. In 1944, he received a letter from the Kamloops City Clerk asking for his opinion on the plans for a new jail. In 1957, the first local volunteer committee of the John Howard Society was formed in Kamloops. One of the particular interests of this group was the provision of services to the Clearwater Forestry Camp (known as Bear Creek Camp).
In 1961, Bill Hesketh from the Vancouver, office became the Okanagan Mainline Field Representative of the John Howard Society of BC. This position involved working in the areas of Kamloops, Penticton, and Revelstoke. This was a pioneer project, making professional service available to organized groups of volunteers. In the late 1960’s the Kamloops branch hired its first staff, the Reverend Katsumo. This was a part-time position with the Reverend Katsumo splitting his time between John Howard Society and the Baptist Church. He eventually returned to full-time involvement with the church relocated to Vancouver. Interestingly, the president of the Kamloops John Howard Society during the 1960’s was Julian Fry, a descendant of Elizabeth Fry (E. Fry is in a sense the sister organization of John Howard Society). In the 1970’s the president of the board was also involved with the board of the Kiwanis House Society. Resulting from this connection, space was provided in the Kiwanis House for the John Howard Society office.
In 1975, Keith Gagne assumed the staff position and eventually saw the office relocate to 4th Avenue in Kamloops. Keith Gagne provided 13 years of service to the John Howard Society. The majority of his work was in the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre providing bridging and reintegration services between the jail and community for the inmate population. In September 1989 the John Howard Society was incorporated so that the Region could operate with independence but under an affiliation agreement with the John Howard Society of British Columbia.
Following Mr. Gagne retirement in 1988, Mr. Tom McDougall took over as the Executive Director of the Society. The Board of Directors closed the doors of the Society from May 1990 until February 1991 after experiencing operational issues. During the office closure, clients and general inquiries were referred to the John Howard Society in Vernon.
In March 1991 Mr. Oliver Forsyth was hired as Executive Director and re-established the John Howard Society’s presence and credibility in the region. In August 1992, the first Kamloops store front office was opened on Lansdowne Street. During the years between 1992 and 1996 the Society started to provide services to the inmate and offender population through partnerships with BC Corrections and Skills Canada. When Mr. Forsyth retired in 1996 the agency was firmly established in the community corrections industry in the Thompson Region.
In September 1996 Ms. Anita Unger took over the helm as the new Executive Director for 4 months. Ms. Unger returned to Vancouver in December 1996. At that time, Ms. Dawn Hrycun was brought on as the new Executive Director of the Society and remained in the role of Chief Executive Officer until her retirement in December 2014 at which time, Ms. Lindsay Lord the present Chief Executive Officer was brought on.
Over the past 20 years, The John Howard Society of the Thompson Region has through its leadership team, become a highly respected community corrections partner with the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada. The degree of exposure and services the John Howard Society of the Thompson Region provides in the community, continues to stay true to the vision held by Mr. John Howard, but are adjusting to the society in which we all live.