Train Inmates for Relevant Jobs

24 Jul, 2013

With a sharp nudge from their political bosses, federal corrections officials are retooling a jobs-training program for inmates to make sure the skills they acquire are more in line with what today’s employers are looking for.

They’re also looking to trot out more ‘good news stories’ about inmates who’ve gone through the program in the hopes of wining over employers who may be afraid to hire ex-cons, documents show.

The CORCAN training program needs to ‘refocus its strategy’ and provide more training that is ‘relevant to today’s economy,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wrote in his May letter to Don Head, commissioner of the Correctional Service Canada. Inmates’ transition from the jail cell to the job market should be “seamless,” Toews said.

Toews’s letter stemmed from a critical assessment of CORCAN by Public Safety Department staff, who found that much of the new training offered to inmates was preparing them for the “jobs of yesterday, or for non-existent jobs.”

“Having five women cutting and sewing pillowcases is no more productive in terms of effective reintegration than the former farm operations,” said a memo, referring to a prison agricultural program that Toews scrapped a few years ago.

About 4,000 federal inmates receive training each year under CORCAN. Some offenders are involved in the building of ergonomic office chairs, cabinets, modular classrooms and jail bunk beds. Others make inmate clothes and bedding, Coast Guard uniforms, shower curtains and drapes.

Sales of CORCAN’s goods and services—typically to federal departments—generated about $60 million in revenue in 2010- 2011.

Image Source: Maclean’s

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