Developing work skills for people in custody

Individuals in B.C.’s correctional centres participate in programs that offer opportunities to gain various types of employment skills and to perform meaningful work.

The skills individuals learn – and the confidence they gain – can help with their transition back into the community, making a significant difference to their circumstances and community safety.

Providing a head start toward employment

Individuals provide maintenance within correctional centres, such as painting and landscaping, and help with daily operations, including food preparation and laundry.

Correctional staff also work closely with community partners to provide opportunities to earn technical certificates that can lead to employment in the community. Depending on the centre, individuals may earn certification in:

  • Building maintenance
  • Industrial first aid
  • FOODSAFE Level 1
  • Workplace hazardous materials information systems
  • Safe pesticide application
  • SuperHost customer service
  • Chainsaw operation
  • Basic electrical
  • Drywall installation
  • Forklift operation
  • Bobcat operation
  • Construction craft worker

Some of the other work skills programs in correctional centres include:

Animal care

A unique program on the grounds of Okanagan Correctional Centre trains individuals to care for horses. Through a partnership with the Okanagan Indian Band, trained handlers guide up to six participants as they feed, groom and wash horses.

Horses have long been used to enhance the emotional, behavioural and cognitive skills of people who have experienced trauma and they are an integral part of Indigenous culture in the Okanagan.

Wildfire suppression

Specially trained crews from correctional centres provide vital support to the BC Wildfire Service, allow individuals to feel more connected to their communities, and contribute to saving property and lives.

  • Crews from the Prince George and Fraser Regional Correctional Centres set up and take down firefighting base camps, keep an inventory of supplies, and maintain camp equipment and facilities.
  • A Ford Mountain Correctional Centre crew cleans, inspects, tests and repairs all firefighting hand tools in B.C., such as axes, sledgehammers, shovels, rakes and firehoses.

These services save significant public funds by extending the life of fire equipment in B.C.

Carpentry, metal fabrication and apprenticeship

Many correctional centres teach carpentry and metal works, including fabrication, power tool use, welding and repair. Crews learn to build items like gazebos, lawn furniture and picnic tables that are often used in the community when finished. A formal welding certification program offered at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre allows individuals to achieve their certification from the training provider while in custody.

Roofing apprenticeship

Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, Ford Mountain Correctional Centre, North Fraser Pretrial Centre and Okanagan Correctional Centre partner with the Roofing Association of BC to help individuals earn their Level 1 Roofing Apprenticeship and gain meaningful, well-paying employment upon release.

Services for camps, parks and community groups

Individuals with the appropriate security clearance give back to the community by performing maintenance, path clearing, cleaning and building for parks, municipal and non-profit groups. They also help set up festivals and events, such as what occurred in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. These crews are supervised and undergo strict risk assessments to participate.

Tailor shop

The Tailor Shop at Surrey Pretrial Services Centre makes and mends clothing and other items for all 10 correctional centres in B.C. and creates much-needed items for local community groups and international aid organizations.  

This innovative work program provides individuals with the opportunity to develop valuable skills, helps community groups without the ability to purchase or make items, and provides immense cost savings for B.C.’s correctional system.

Horticulture and silviculture

At Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, a Van Dusen Gardens “master gardener” trains individuals in gardening, grounds-keeping, greenhouse operation, and vegetable growing. Produce grown by the centre’s individuals is served at the centre.

Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre runs a similar greenhouse program with Thompson Rivers University. All plants grown are donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which provides care and support to grandmothers and children affected by AIDS, and produce is donated to the local food bank.

Okanagan Correctional Centre maintains a 365-day-a-year greenhouse where individuals learn the principles behind vertical food production.  Hundreds of pounds of vegetables are donated to local food charities.

Fraser Regional Correctional Centre partners with the District of Mission to teach people the basics of silviculture and to provide services to the Mission Tree Farm.

ALLCO fish hatchery

In partnership with the Alouette River Management Society, a crew from Fraser Regional Correctional Centre keeps salmon stocks healthy in the Alouette River and other watersheds.

The crew raises salmon fry from eggs, releases them and then collects new eggs from returning adults to begin the cycle again. With the assistance of BC Corrections, the ALLCO hatchery has released more than 45 million salmon fry into the wild.

Blanket program

The North Fraser Pretrial Centre receives blankets, medical scrubs, sheets, towels, pillows and pillow cases from K-Bro Linens Inc. These items are sorted, counted and donated to local and global charities, such as homeless shelters and transition houses.

Some stock is also warehoused to help during provincial emergencies like floods and forest fires in B.C. and Alberta.