Prisons & vocational training

“CORCAN is a special operating agency within the CSC that provides employment, vocational training and employability skills to all offenders in federal correctional institutions, to support rehabilitation and help lower rates of re-offending.”
Correctional Service of Canada web site

“Few CORCAN run industries provide training or teach skills that are job relevant or meet labour market demands.  The Service has continued to maintain obsolete infrastructure and technological platforms for such an extended period of time that these problems now appear insoluble.  Federal corrections maintains environments that are information-depriving, often using security concerns as a basis for maintaining the status quo.”
Office of the Correctional Investigator Annual Report 2019-2020

Note that CORCAN opportunities may be available to all offenders, as the CSC suggests, but the circumstances through which an inmate can in reality end up in a CORCAN program mean that only a small minority of prisoners are involved.  Further, the disparity between CSC’s description of CORCAN and how the correctional investigator sees the agency can be attributed to how much the prison industry prioritizes vocational training compared to the greater importance to which the correctional investigator attaches to it.  As Dr. Zinger wrote, “There appears to be little motivation to improve, evidenced by the lack of progress over the last two decades.”

This very brief overview won’t detail the range of barbs and laurels that can be hung on CORCAN, a lengthy task of interest only to those who are already aware of the contrasts and the shortcomings.  Rather, suffice it to record that on the one hand, even some CSC staff concede “that prison industries effectively fill an individual’s time rather than provide a usable skillset.”

But as counterpoint, there are CORCAN shops that do work to prepare participants for release to the community.  One is the welding program at Collins Bay in Kingston which is an accredited school that offers welding training and applies workers’ hours toward an apprenticeship.   Another is the construction program at Matsqui Institution in Abbotsford where workers “are registered with the provincial ministry as an apprentice and all hours are logged toward a construction apprenticeship.”

Except for the opening excerpt from the Correctional Service of Canada web site, all other quotations are from the 2019-2020 Annual Report of the correctional investigator.  This is from Dr. Zinger’s conclusion:  “While the Service offers a number of programs, including education and vocational skills training, the current complement of learning opportunities does not and cannot provide effective rehabilitation or reintegration, particularly given the current lack of focus, outmoded technological capacity and limited resource allocation.”

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As an addendum to the November 21st posting, “Prisons & technology,” and referring to Jason Wang and his joinfreeworld.com, the Canadian Truckers Associations has only recently sounded an alarm over the shortage of truck drivers in this country.  It claims there is a current demand for 18,000 drivers in Canada which is expected to grow over the next few years. 

Feedback to the provincial alliance was warranted:-

November 22, 2021

Board of Directors,
Ontario Trucking Association,
Toronto, ON  M9W 1H8

Re:       Shortage of truckers

Trucking Association Board of Directors:

Again, the shortage of truck drivers in Canada is attracting media attention.  The demand for drivers in the United States is equally problematic for shippers.  Our supply chains are constipated and that’s partly on you to resolve.

Check out www.joinfreeworld.com

American prisons, just as with the Canadian prison industry, do a lousy job at returning criminals to the community as contributing, law-abiding citizens.  For one, most are woefully prepared to enter the job market; that is, if they can even find an employer to hire someone with a record.

“Joinfreeworld” is an initiative of Jason Wang, a young ex-con who along with his partners offer a program to train offenders as truck drivers.  They went where the need was.  Today it’s truckers.  Tomorrow it might be welders.  Giving these men and women an opportunity to earn a decent living wage is a strong incentive to stay out of prison.  Mr. Wang claims a 1% recidivism rate.

True, this is an American enterprise, but a Canadian counterpart would also put some qualified warm bodies behind the wheels of your trucks.

A radical suggestion, isn’t it.

Next….a new Minister of Public Safety, another push for the revised Media Relations directive.




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