The Seventh Step Society
The philosophy of Seventh Step is based on history; a history of having faith that people can change and faith that by way of utilizing the seven steps, one can begin to achieve and maintain their freedom. This was the vision of Seventh Step’s originators; Bill Sands and Reverend James Post in Kansas State Prison. A recidivist offender himself, Bill Sands gained inspiration through San Quentin’s Warden at the time, Clinton Duffy and in 1963 Seventh Step took its first steps. It was designed to reach the recidivist; the rounder, the hardcore convict population with the end goal to reduce and eliminate those recidivist behaviours. By re-formatting the 12 steps into 7 to fit the principles of freedom and the value on that freedom, individuals are challenged to think realistically and take responsibility for their thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours.
A main premise of Seventh Step is perspective. For the individual to gain a well-rounded perspective of the society they will have to re-enter, the triad of membership is imperative. This triad includes the non-offender, the ex-offender, and the current offender. The non-offender plays a crucial role in that they bring a perspective that can offer new ways of thinking and acting for the offender.
In 1967, Seventh Step was introduced into Canada. Tom Gordon, Jim Sabourin, and Jack Lynch began in Haney Correctional Institute and then into other facilities in the lower mainland in the Vancouver area. Under the direction and passion of Pat and Bea Graham, the Seventh Step Society of Canada became a registered charity, a non-profit organization in 1981, and remains in current good standing with Government of Canada.
Founder Bill Sands (centre) on one of his trips to Canada
The Alberta Seventh Step Society
Founder Patrick Graham and Bea Graham
In 1971, Patrick Graham started the Alberta Chapter of Seventh Step. He began running groups in Drumheller Institution with the help of two ex-cons: Art Walmsley and Mike Hewlitt. This new initiative was fully supported by Drumheller’s Warden of the time, Pierre Jutras. In 1975, Alberta Seventh Step opened their first halfway house within the YWCA and housed 11 individuals. It was decided that a larger facility would be needed and a permit to construct their own facility was applied for. Around the same time, A Community Residential Centre was established in Edmonton through cottages at Belmont Correctional Centre.
On July 3, 1977 the doors to Alberta Seventh Step’s Community Residential Facility were opened. It is one of the first purpose based built halfway houses in Canada that is still currently active and running in Calgary, AB. The facility houses 35 male federal offenders at any given time and operates 24/7 throughout the year funded by Correctional Service of Canada.
Between the years of 1981 and 1983, Alberta Seventh Step secured funding from both The Alberta Law Foundation and The United Way for their Public Legal Education and Community Services programs. These funding partnerships have continued into current day.