Winter program helps offenders turn their lives around

Corrections work crews help set up the Silver Skate Festival

An Alberta Corrections program is helping offenders turn their lives around while also ensuring one of the longest-running winter festivals in Edmonton is a great success.

Work crews from Edmonton Adult Attendance Centre are helping to set up the Silver Skate Festival, a 10-day celebration of winter arts, sports, culture and recreation in the city’s scenic river valley. The crews have been shovelling and packing snow for the ice carving competitions, moving heavy lodge poles to help decorate the Cree winter camp and generally turning a section of Hawrelak Park into an icy wonderland.

FullSizeRenderCorrectional peace officers oversee the community service work crew projects – such as the one at the Silver Skate Festival – and monitor educational programming, while probation officers supervise offenders in the community. This joint approach holds offenders accountable for their actions while also giving them excellent opportunities to start afresh.

“The crews at the Silver Skate Festival learn skills that help them give something back to the community,” said Patrick Wimbs, one of four CPOs who lead the teams. “We see our roles as mentors. “We are like foremen, teaching the crews about the importance of dealing with their responsibilities and the value of camaraderie. We are dedicated to creating a positive atmosphere in which they can turn their lives around.”

Work crews support other venues across the province, including the Leduc Lions Park, Star of the North retreat in St. Albert, the Railway Museum, and the Salvation Army. At the Ukrainian Heritage Village, the crews paint miles and miles of fences, shovel gravel and move heavy lumber.

Offenders in the program are minimum risk. Some are fulfilling a community sentence, while others are paying off a fine or jail time by working in the community. Each offender will fulfill a certain number of hours (i.e., one person might have 40 hours, another 240, another weekends). In 2014, approximately 55,000 hours were clocked by offenders in community service and fine option programs at Edmonton Adult Attendance Centre.

“The offenders in the program work hard,” said Patrick, who has worked in Corrections for more than 30 years. “They learn that it is important to take pride in their work. This helps prepare them for the rest of their lives and also helps to make Alberta a better place to live.”

The Edmonton Adult Attendance Centre – and its sister office in Calgary – are unique among community corrections offices in the province. The two centres combine the expertise of correctional peace officers and probation officers to facilitate restorative, rehabilitative, and re-integrative initiatives, which help make Alberta even more safe and secure.

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