VIU and Northpine Foundation expand educational opportunities in BC correctional centres

Markus in the Centre for Health and Science

Markus Batraki, an Inside-Out program alum, is one of many students who have had their lives transformed by this innovative course.

March 1, 2023 - 12:15pm

The Northpine Foundation is gifting the University more than $1 million to increase programming options and develop employment training.

A program on Vancouver Island that allows university students to learn alongside incarcerated people in provincial correctional centres will expand, thanks to a $1.1-million gift from the Northpine Foundation.

This generous gift will expand Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to other BC communities. It will also support formerly incarcerated persons pursuing post-secondary studies and enable the development of employment training at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre (NCC). 

The Inside-Out program offers post-secondary criminology courses to classes composed of both incarcerated students (“inside” students) and university students (“outside” students). The course is taught within the correctional centre and offers students a powerful academic and experiential learning opportunity that puts a face and voice behind what it means to be involved in the justice system in a way that fosters mutual understanding, compassion and shared experiences.

“The Inside-Out program has had a tremendous impact on my life,” said former inside student Markus Batraki, who is now enrolled full-time at VIU and plans to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. “Through the program and the connections made with others, I have come to believe in my ability to become a university student. I now understand that even though I have spent time in prison, I can overcome past adversity and tackle new goals in life with hard work and perseverance.”

VIU began offering Inside-Out classes at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre in 2016. Three years later the program expanded to the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre in Victoria. More than 250 students have taken the course, including 118 inside students.

“I’ve had the privilege of observing enormous growth in participants’ compassion and mutual respect for each other,” said Criminology Professor Dr. Elizabeth McLin. “They learn that we have much more in common than we ever thought, recognizing our shared humanity. And, once that happens, all those assumptions we’ve held about each other cease to wield power over how we view others – and that change transcends the classroom.”

Over the next three years, VIU will assist with the startup of programs with other universities in the province. The funding also allows VIU and NCC to collaborate with a local non-profit on more employment training for NCC residents and supports for Inside-Out alumni as they continue their educational journeys.

“At VIU, success is determined by how wide we can open our doors to allow as many people as possible to access life-changing educational experiences,” said Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor. “This program has enabled inside students to see a different path forward for themselves. The program breaks down stereotypes, creating kinder, more compassionate human beings. This partnership with the Northpine Foundation will offer fresh perspectives and help create a deep connection to communities our students serve.”

“Over the past seven years during which the Inside-Out program has been offered at NCC, I have witnessed the participants grow in so many meaningful ways,” said Teri DuTemple, Warden at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre. “Both inside and outside students are allowing themselves to be vulnerable, to consider the perspectives of others, to show empathy, and in some cases develop a sense of passion for creating positive change to address social issues. I have been inspired at each graduation upon hearing the stories of the graduates as to how life-changing their participation in the course has been. I am incredibly proud of our partnership with VIU and look forward to many more years of Inside-Out graduations.”

The Northpine Foundation invests in innovative projects for underserved and underinvested communities in Canada. Through risk capital through a mix of grants, donations, loans, equity investments, or a hybrid of all these, they aim to catalyze scalable outcomes for these communities. Northpine will also provide expertise, networking and other non-financial supports to the Inside-Out program at VIU and the employment training at NCC.

“Incarcerated people have limited access to post-secondary education, and what’s available is often prohibitively expensive,” said Sara Tessier, Impact Manager for Formerly Incarcerated Persons at the Northpine Foundation. “Our investment in the Inside-Out program will help remove some of the barriers to gainful employment by opening access to career-focused education, reducing recidivism in the process. We hope this investment will prove the value of VIU’s model, boosting possibilities for scaling and expanding to serve communities across Canada.”


Media Contact:

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Manager, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

The VIU community acknowledges and thanks the Snuneymuxw, Quw’utsun, Tla’amin, Snaw-naw-as and Qualicum First Nation on whose traditional lands we teach, learn, research, live and share knowledge.


About Northpine Foundation

The Northpine Foundation works with a vision to propel and expand outcome-centred innovation in Canada. As a start-up philanthropic organization, Northpine provides catalytic funding through tailored financing (donations, grants, loans, equity, or blend), along with expertise, networks, and other non-financial supports to help underinvested and underserved cohorts thrive and flourish.


Focused on a core value of kindness in every undertaking, the Northpine Foundation designs, funds, and collaborates on initiatives that combine best practices with new, untried approaches to drive scalable change towards a healthy and resilient Canada.

About Vancouver Island University

Vancouver Island University (VIU), located on the west coast of Canada, is one of Canada’s most inclusive universities. We place students and communities at the centre of our work, recognizing that education is a key determinant of social progress and economic prosperity. Our unique student experience includes small class sizes; dedicated, award-winning faculty; and exceptional undergraduate research opportunities that are often realized in collaboration with our many community partners. We also offer a wide variety of educational options and starting points, including upgrading, trades, and undergraduate and graduate programs, to support the varied educational needs of both our domestic and international students. This personalized approach prepares VIU students for success in the workforce and gives them the skills to act as responsible global citizens. At the foundation of this work is our focus on ensuring as many people as possible can access post-secondary education.

Tags: Community Engagement | Criminology | Student Success | Announcements

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