You’d Better Take Care of That: On Corrections and Home Ownership

When I was a student finishing up my Master’s degree in criminology at the University of Ottawa, I was lucky enough to get a full-time job at the Correctional Service of Canada. I had previously put in many unpaid hours there as a student doing my practicum (a “stage” in Quebec speak). My boss at that time would later go on to become the first female Commissioner of federal corrections in Canada, and she was a force to be reckoned with.

One of the first pieces of advice she gave me I continue to use to this day: Don’t expect issues or problems to just go away, no matter how small they may seem. You have to deal with things until they are addressed and managed. Because if you don’t, those small things become big things.

At the time, she was referring to such things as a researcher submitting an article to us for consideration: we couldn’t just ignore it if we had decided it was not relevant; we needed to reply. Or a member of the public asking a question about how prisons are managed in Canada: we had a responsibility, as a tax payer-funded government department, to answer. Or the ombudsman for federal inmates requesting information they had a right to receive: we had a duty to provide it.

Because if we didn’t take care of these things, whether niggling little annoyances or more significant and time-consuming issues and tasks, it would come back to haunt us. The researcher decides never to share her research findings with us again. The member of the public writes a letter to the editor and starts a backlash against federal corrections in a community where reintegration opportunities for parolees are needed. The ombudsman writes us up in their annual report as being slow to act or, worse, withholding information.

And so it is in our lives and in home ownership too. That leaky pipe under the sink? Those windows that ooze water when it rains? That growing stain on the ceiling? Those gutters full of debris? The filter in your furnace? The bare patches on your roof that already needs roof repair, I try looking for a roof installation near me? Those old smoke alarms? The draft around the door? The caulking in your shower? Even something as simple as the juice that spilled on the floor this morning while you were making breakfast … or something as significant as that hole in your budget that you see but don’t want to name. Those things may not be big issues right this minute, but if you don’t address them, they’re most likely going to grow into bigger, more costly problems.

There is no magic Wipe Things Away Fairy. No one to wave a magic wand and make all those sticky, uncomfortable, sometimes tedious and irritating things go away — not in corrections, not in home ownership, and, indeed, not in life either. It’s on you.

You’d better take care of that.