Corrections Today Video Transcripts
Elenore Arend: Well, we’ve begun to focus more of our attention, and where we will continue to focus more of our attention is supporting Aboriginal people who are in the correction system and the justice system.
And again, there’s a disproportionate over-representation of individuals who are…who self-identify as Aboriginal who are in custody, who are in community. It’s about 30 percent in custody, a little bit less in community.
You know we’ve been working on this for quite some time. We’ve got Aboriginal justice strategy programs that are in 34 communities and supporting community corrections clients.
We’ve got Aboriginal liaisons in each of the custody centres. And then we manage the native Courtworker program which helps people navigating throughout the court system.
So, we’ve got three large initiatives, but we’re now even more so focusing on looking to our Aboriginal partners to guide us in our work. Which is a shift for us, right.
Elenore Arend: Well, there’s 2,300 staff in the branch. So that’s significant.
Interviewer: And training is very important for all of these?
Elenore Arend: It’s a key initiative. I mean, the branch wouldn’t be anything if it weren’t for our staff and if we don’t offer them the appropriate training, you know, we would be in a very difficult position.
So, training is absolutely huge, and both custody and community see things from that perspective.
They have robust training curriculums for their staff and they both have, well, strategic training committees that not only make sure the training is running at it should be, but also review the training and update the training so that staff are getting training that’s keeping pace with what’s current.
Elenore Arend: There’s probably a couple of key initiatives that are underway now and have really been starting to take hold. The first is, I mentioned, inter-ministry collaboration and one of the pieces I’ve been engaged in and others have been engaged in is work in the area of mental health…mental health and substance use.
About 60 percent of our population has a diagnosis of a mental health or a substance use disorder or both…and that is the population that’s been diagnosed – that doesn’t speak to those that haven’t been diagnosed.
So, we need to do more in that area and we have been working with colleagues across ministries on developing approaches that can be implemented across the ministries to support individuals who end up in custody at the end of the day, often times, because there’s nowhere else for them to go.
Elenore Arend: We developed a self-serve kiosk for offenders in custody, inmates in custody, so that inmates can access their information.
They can put in a medical request electronically to see the doctor, rather than, you know, scribbling a note and passing it to the correctional officer and then he takes it to the medical team.
There’s also within that two-factor authentication that we developed so inmates log in with their correctional service number and their fingerprint.
Interviewer: Inmates do?
Elenore Arend: Inmates do, so in order to, you know, to access these things and make requests to the doctor or, you know, look up their history or see what programs they’ve, you know…get all the history of their programs…all of the programs that they had attended, right?
But it’s also good because we’re looking at ways of reusing that technology so that when an individual in VIRCC is doing this…when an individual comes into custody that’s part of their intake process. That fingerprint is taken, so when they go to court and they’re laving custody we check to see, you know, is that individual the right individual that should be going out to court.
Rob Chong: Well, at the very beginning prior to 1990 the training was delivered on a post-hire model. In other words, people were hired as correctional officers and probation officers, youth probation officers, youth justice workers, and family justice counsellors and then they were trained afterward. Then they were paid while they were undergoing training.
So, that occurred up until the 90s and starting in 1992/93 we went to a pre-employment model. We called it the employment and readiness program era whereby everything shifted so that folks who wanted to apply for these positions needed to complete the training paid by themselves on a tuition basis delivered by the Justice Institute of BC.
So that era occurred between 1992/93 to about the 2000s when it shifted back again to a post-hire model. That pre-employment era was driven by the fact of at that point a lot of fiscal challenges within government in terms of how to save more money. At that point it was conducive to actually having a model whereby people would pay for their own training and we don’t guarantee you a job – graduating successfully from the program and then applying for work.
So that worked well until such time, I think in the early 2000s, when the economic landscape changed partly driven by the fact it was difficult to recruit people to professions. Whereby, it was felt at that point that you know having a pre-employment model was perceived and viewed as a barrier to many of the folks applying for these positions. So, we went back to post-hire.
Rob Chong: But the biggest one was really application of technology. In 1999, around the time when the dot-com industry was just exploding, back then Rob Watts the provincial director of the community corrections division challenged the JI and me – at that point I was the program coordinator looking after adult probation – challenged me to look at applying technologies to training.
And, at that point, there were some institutions and some areas that were actually starting the journey of online learning. But it was not the main state at that point. It was not the established approach. There was distance education in the form of traditional correspondence but nothing, really, to the extent of online learning.
So, within that year, we did a lot of research, a lot of design, a lot of contemplation, a lot pf preparation which led to coming up and proposing an e-learning online training model to be applied to corrections training. And between 1999 to about 2001 we actually embarked in online learning and I remember in those early years, and again being championed by Rob Watts, one of the challenges was to actually convince folks that online learning was the way to go and was the way of the future.
Rob Chong: Back in 1999, when we embarked on our e-learning journey, I recalled that most of my efforts back then at the beginning was trying to champion online learning as the solution to much our our training solutions back then. And quite often back then it was based on a premise that it would actually be very cost effective to move in that direction.
Now, gaining wisdom over the last 10-15 years, what I can say is that at best in terms of the application of technologies – it’s cost-efficient but it doesn’t necessarily reduce costs. What is does is transfer the costs from one part of the organization to the other.
As an example, is that, you know even though online learning has resulted in less travel costs for staff to come to the JI, or to whatever training institute, what it’s done is it’s actually shifted some of the savings to fund the requirements for the technologies. And as we all know, technology keeps changing. It has to be refreshed every so often. And within that though there’s some additional costs.
And so, what I find really interesting after the last 15-20 years whereas as you recall I mentioned earlier 15-20 years ago we had one instructor teaching adult probation now we have a team of five. You know, and partly that’s driven not only in terms of what is taught - because we’re teaching much more information that’s more specialized, but it’s how the use of technology really requires a number of people who can focus on writing curriculum, designing curriculum and not only teaching it. So it’s the full gamut.
Rob Chong: A number of the probation instructors are using web conferencing tools to deliver training. So, there’s real time use of web conferencing tools to teach and it’s really fascinating and a lot of instructors are gaining a lot of experience.
And I could foresee, in the not too long distance future, is staff being able to get hands-on real time learning without actually having to leave their offices – but do it in a way which really humanizes the technology more versus just being in front of the computer – but actually being able to see people live. So that’s going to be, I think, one of the next emerging trends along the way.