Everyone knows a key part of the correctional system is to ensure safe and secure custody of inmates, but what may not be so obvious is the work done through Alberta Corrections to get inmates back on track. The goal is to help them stop committing crime and make a better life – for both themselves and others by not creating more victims. This includes youth, especially those who are over-represented in Alberta’s correctional facilities.
In Edmonton, for example, an Aboriginal Program Coordinator and Native Elder work out of the Edmonton Young Offender Centre providing support to inmates, and culturally sensitive advice to probation officers as well. In fact, all Alberta correctional staff are trained to help young offenders of all ethnicities turn their lives around.
There is also a youth probation officer in Edmonton who has a specialized Aboriginal caseload and extensive experience working with Aboriginal youth, including having worked previously at Native Counselling Services. And all probation officers in Edmonton work with Aboriginal youth on a daily basis, so the officers get the training they need to provide the required support.
Across Alberta, correctional staff are well-trained to deal with young offenders of all ethnicities and are sensitized to the needs of Aboriginal youth specifically. Probation officers and centre staff complete induction training, and these dedicated people work tremendously hard and are deeply committed to improving outcomes for young people in conflict with the law. Alberta Corrections staff go “above and beyond” on a daily basis to meet the needs of the youth under their supervision.
As you may have read, some concerns have been raised recently about support ending for Aboriginal youth as provided by one probation officer with Native Counselling Services. To be clear, the work of this one probation officer is being shifted to other probation officers.
While one contract is ending, the youth clients supported by that position will be served by other, qualified probation officers, including some with Aboriginal roots themselves and/or sensitized to the needs of Aboriginal youth. Two individuals were recently hired (replacing staff who had left) in youth probation, and those two individuals are highly qualified for this role. They have finished induction training, including specialized emphasis on the cultural needs of Aboriginal youth to ensure they are properly prepared to carry out their duties.
The number of youth in conflict with the law has gone down over the past few years and it no longer made sense to contract for services ministry probation officers can provide. Qualified, dedicated people will continue to provide these services at a lower cost to Alberta taxpayers – by moving the services to probation officers already trained and working with other youth in similar circumstances.