Inmates get their hands dirty and break new ground through pilot partnership in horticultural training

October 26, 2011 - 3:00am

Seven inmates of the Nanaimo Correctional Centre (NCC) earned certificates for completing a horticulture and nursery production program offered through a partnership of the correctional centre, Vancouver Island University, Literacy Central Vancouver Island and the John Howard Society.

Vancouver Island University’s introduction to horticulture and nursery production program was an innovative training project for employment skills access (ESA).

This project of the Labour Market Consortium broke ground in many ways—especially about how inmates came to view themselves as students, said Marion Knost, Program Manager, Contract Training Services at VIU.

“Getting education is never a waste of time and this will help me go out into the community. I am truly grateful,” said one graduate.

“This makes me feel much better about going out there and getting a job .I have been thinking for the first time of maybe going back to school,” said another.

Nanaimo Correctional Centre has a history of work programs and already had a working greenhouse on site. NCC staff members joined inmates-in-training to support behavioral change through their participation.

Students selected for support were housed in a therapeutic residential community for substance abuse at NCC. Guthrie House is the only such therapeutic community located within a correctional centre in Canada.

This project provided education and training to selected inmates. It also supported additional education and employment upon their release and completion of treatment.

NCC, Vancouver Island University, Literacy Central Vancouver Island, and the John Howard Society worked in partnership to provide this training opportunity. John Howard Society staff members associated closely with Guthrie House inmates, recommending individuals for the program. These individuals were screened for eligibility by the ESA client manager.

The course included theoretical knowledge plus a practical component in horticulture and nursery production. Some hands-on experience was supervised by the instructor. Other work, such as nurturing plants from seeds to sales, was maintained independently.

“Without the commitment and support of NCC staff, this labour-intensive work would not have been successful,” said Knost. “This pilot partnership program has inspired ideas for similar projects.”

Students, who saw themselves as VIU students, toured the Nanaimo campus and a commercial working greenhouse. They received certification in Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, occupational first aid and forklift training.

Students developed employment and educational plans through workshops and individual support by the ESA client manager. One participant released during the training program continued to participate and complete the program at NCC.

Out of the seven inmates who completed the program, one secured part-time work while registering for upgrading and additional first-year courses. Two advanced to higher education and two secured employment.

“These are excellent outcomes for any group but particularly rewarding for students who were incarcerated,” said Knost.


VIU Contract Training:

Tags: In the Community

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email