The Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows school board would like to see a funding change for prison educational programs. (Maple Ridge News file)

The Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows school board would like to see a funding change for prison educational programs. (Maple Ridge News file)

SD42 calls for a change in funding for prison education

School board chair says current system does not take into account “fluidity” of prison populations

Educational program funding for inmates at local prisons needs to change according to the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows School District.

In a letter to the province early February, school board chair Korleen Carreras, said the current system does not reflect the “fluidity of the prison population and the transient nature of the provincial corrections inmates” who enrol in its programs.

Maple Ridge is home to two prisons: Fraser Regional Correctional Centre and the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women.

The Ministry of Education provides funding for eligible inmates based on the Adult Funding Policy, explained Carreras, adding they are also contracted by the federal government to provide specific educational programs for inmates, which would not otherwise be funded by the province. Those contracts are awarded through an annual proposal process.

READ MORE: The value of a prison education

Inmate enrolment in the program usually starts off low in September and builds as those incarcerated in the prisons become more comfortable, she explained.

“It typically takes more than a couple of weeks for vulnerable inmates to rebuild their faith in a system that may have failed them in the past,” wrote Carreras.

There is also the issue with inmates who enrol having to leave the program before the funding activation period has been reached.

For example, Carreras noted, attendance for sentenced inmates is defined as exceeding one reporting period after either five hours of in-class instruction or upon completion of five per cent of the course requirements. For remanded inmates, one reporting period is exceeded after three hours of in-class instruction or completion of three per cent of the course requirements.

Inmates can also meet the funding activation criteria by achieving the Grade 10 to 12 active requirements outlined in the Distributed Learning Active Policy.

However, she said, the discrepancy between funded enrolment and actual enrolment prevents school districts from maintaining a consistent level of staffing and from providing the required educational services.

RELATED: Advocates critique rising jail figures in some provinces after initial COVID-19 fall

“We strongly feel there needs to be a pre-determined funding level for each correctional facility that will support the continuity of educational programming for inmates,” said Carreras.

What Carreras and the board would like to see is a similar model of funding for inmate education as the special-purpose funding already allocated to the school board for a variety of other provincial resource programs.

Special-purpose funding is money given to the school district from the province with restrictions on how the money is to be spent and, said Carreras. This system will not only allow school districts across the province to maintain a consistent level of staffing – because the funding will be consistent –but will also aid them in continuing to provide required educational services.

“We provide education services to any inmate interested in furthering their education regardless of time spent in the facility,” explained Carreras.

“We provide education so that inmates can obtain their high school or high-school equivalency diplomas, earn certificates, and receive accreditation that will not only assist them in future job searches, but also help prepare them for college,” she continued.

There is a documented direct link between low literacy rates and high incidents of crime, added Carreras.

“As such, we know that partnerships between boards of education and BC Corrections have great value in that they not only provide struggling individuals with the skills they need to succeed, but can also have a measurable impact on crime reduction in communities.”

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