When serving in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Troy MacInnis learned the values of discipline and hard work. Those are lessons he has never forgotten. Now he serves Albertans as a correctional peace officer (CPO) at Edmonton Remand Centre (ERC), where he is using his military experience to help inmates turn their lives around.CPO/Sergeant MacInnis developed a military-style boot camp that marched into action at ERC earlier this year. Inmates work in the correctional facility’s laundry centre and participate in frequent courtyard drills. They abide by a strict dress code and other tough rules like high levels of personal and cell hygiene, and no drug or gang talk.
“The boot camp gives them structure, self-discipline and promotes a healthy and social lifestyle,” said MacInnis. “We encourage teamwork at all times to help them develop self-esteem and self-control, while they must agree to work on any addictions they might have.”
MacInnis served as soldier for 16 years and spent some time as a customs officer before joining our corrections division in 2008. He started researching the boot camp idea in 2011 by analyzing similar initiatives at U.S. correctional facilities. He then developed a concept specifically for Canadian centres.
“I noticed how many inmates spent their days sleeping or watching TV, and started thinking of ways they could use their time more productively, doing things that would benefit them in the future. Many of them have a lot of potential.”
More experienced boot camp members act as mentors to new recruits to help create a united group. However, inmates who break the rules can be removed.
“Inmates must be remanded for at least two months and are interviewed before being selected for the program,” said ERC director of programs Barb Blanchette. “They participate in educational and life skills programs that give them the opportunity to achieve success when they return to the community.”
As part of the camp, inmates have also taken part in charity push-up contests with correctional peace officers. So far, the CPOs have won all of the challenges, and hope to continue their winning streak in future sponsored contests.
“It’s all about getting the inmates back on the right track,” said MacInnis. “Everyone gets a second chance and I want to see these guys do well. That will ultimately help us create safer and stronger communities.”