Criminology students from Northwest Community College (NWCC) campuses in Terrace, Smithers, and Prince Rupert have landed work experience practicums this spring and early summer across the province, and as far away as Ontario as part of the Community, Crime & Social Justice (CCSJ) curriculum.
"On-the-job experience is what employers are looking for, says NWCC criminology professor Michael Brandt. "NWCC's criminology work practicum provides this. Kerry Mowatt, from Prince Rupert, was offered a job right away once she finished her practicum."
It's clear that employers like to get a first-hand look at who they might hire and Brandt says work experience practicums also help students apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-life situations. They gain practical, hands-on experience in a criminal justice (or related) agency.
NWCC criminology students have worked with several criminal justice (and related) agencies, both in BC, and across Canada. These include the Correctional Service of Canada, probation offices, parole offices, the RCMP, legal services, residential facilities (halfway houses), women's shelters, and the Coroners Service of BC.
"Nothing beats the excitement I hear in students' voices when they tell me about their work practicum experience," says Brandt. "For some, it was the highlight of the Criminology Program. The fact that some have been offered employment after completing their practicums speaks to the quality of students graduating from the CCSJ Program.
"The feedback from the agency sponsors has been unequivocally positive."
Seven of the eight 2012 CCSJ students have completed their practicums. Five of these students have provided insightful summaries of these learning experiences. These are the students, what community they're from and where they did or are doing their practicum:
Kerry Mowatt (Prince Rupert; completed in Prince George Parole Office)
Katelyn Miles (Smithers; Prince George Coroners Service)
Simone Reece (Hartley Bay; Legal Services Terrace)
Joanne Legros (Smithers, Smithers Probation)
Darcie Reid (Kitimat, Kamloops Elizabeth Fry Society)
Barbara Bond (Terrace; Correctional Service of Canada, Kingston, Ontario; Ontario Parole Board)
Sarah Ledoux (Terrace; Terrace RCMP)
Shelby Taphouse (Terrace; Terrace Legal Services Terrace).
From Barbara Bond Practicum in Kingston Ontario
My name is Barbara Bond and I am now a graduate with an Associates Degree in Criminology Specialization at NWCC. I approached Criminology/Sociology Professor Michael Brandt in January (2012) asking if I could participate in the practicum offered in the CCJS certificate program. I felt that being able to experience first hand the culture, processes, and society of the criminal justice system that I would greatly understand objectively the theoretical and the critical analysis of my prior academics. It did just that, and much, much more. In six weeks, my understanding and knowledge base of criminology and the practical processes expanded to a new level. I gained knowledge and experience that which a textbook or classroom lecture could never deliver. I was face-to-face with the offenders, and the inner workings of the consequences of criminal behaviour, and the system with which it is designed to rehabilitate offenders and protect the public from harm; it is that essence of the CJS environment that pure theoretical academics can not replicate.
Here is a summary of my experience:
Collins Bay Penitentiary – Medium Security Prison built in 1930.
Shadowed Correctional Officers in managing inmates. Duties required were:
Observing inmate behaviour, movement control, Institutional court, and Segregation reviews. I worked in segregation and Transition Unit (Protective Custody), Escorting, K9 Unit, Perimeter Patrol, Visitation and Correspondence, cell searching, Worked with Security Intelligence Officers, Bill C-10 training. Attended Morning operations meetings with all the department heads.
Worked with a Parole Officer in the community. Lifers that have served their 25-year sentences or on Statutory releases. Life sentences mean that you are on supervision for life. Met with three “lifers” in the community (place of residency) and observed the offenders correctional plan and case management strategies. A Probation Officer (PO) typically, depending on the offender and risk of recidivism, meets with offenders every two weeks, monthly, or every three months. Assessment consists of place of residence, neighbourhood, personal stability, friends and associates, employment or means of living, etc.….
Portsmouth Community Corrections Center
PCCC is used to assist in offender rehabilitation by providing housing for those offenders released on Unescorted Temporary absences, work release, and day parole, statutory release and LTSO (long term supervision orders) I observed a new inmate intake session, where he was told of the rules of the facility, who the contact person is assigned to his case, any and all information pertaining to his stay at the center. Responsibilities and expectations required are delivered in an inmate residential information guide given upon intake registration. The center specializes in program delivery suited for the needs of each offender for risk management, or sexual offender risk management, drug/alcohol abuse. Supervision alone does not assist the offenders in changing harmful behaviour. The programs are designed also to help in coping with daily living, relationships and emotions, and to prepare offender for living in the community.
Parole Board of Canada (PBC) / National Parole Board (NPB)
The PBC's primary objective is the long term protection of society; therefore, the legal authority within which the PBC operates is set out by the constitution including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code, The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and its regulations, and other legislation (pbc-clcc.gc.ca). The Role of the PBC and its officers is to make decisions regarding conditional releases and record suspensions, and recommendations in clemency cases. I had the honour of attending the parole hearings of three offenders at Bath Institution in Kingston, Ontario. I was given the case files prepared by a hearing officer where I was made aware of the details of the offender and the nature of the offence and any prior recidivist behaviours. One of the hearings involved a dangerous offender who is incarcerated for an indefinite period of time (there are only 16 dangerous offenders in Canada). All three offenders were denied day/full parole and post suspension. The hearing officers interview and question the inmate about the nature of their crimes to try to measure empathy and recidivist risk. An important criterion is the intense institutionalization the inmate may suffer which would create major challenges to the inmate and the public.
I met with Albert Montagnese, Regional Manager NPB – Hearing officers are government in Council appointed Board Members based on Administrative Tribunal, which is all about information pertaining to decision making in risk assessment in community. It’s a transparent system whereby the general public can access copies of decisions and attend hearings (decisions registry Criminal Records Act). Victim registry assists in disclosure to victims based in the CCRA.
Kingston Penitentiary Maximum Security Prison 1835 the – Regional Treatment Center Mental Health Coordinator Kathy McCoy Program delivery officer.
Once inside the walls of KP I felt the essence of 177 years of Canada’s correctional history. The brilliant limestone architecture, the eerie overly large steel doors and cages, and the primitive locking systems left over from the past 2 centuries. The hint of modernization drowned in the stony arches and domed ceilings and the institutional harmonics of echoes resonating throughout the limestone walls. It was undoubtedly the most incredible experience of correctional history I have seen. I was shown throughout the Institution. We passed the segregation unit, which houses Russell Williams, Paul Bernardo, the Shafias and the once notorious Clifford Olson. I am certain that these individuals ( except for Olson) laid their eyes on me wondering whom I was being led around. I went through the “dome” where most of the infamous 1971 riot photos captured the destruction led by 420 inmates. KP houses the Regional Hospital and the Regional Treatment Center (RTC - Psychiatric), which serves all institutions. It was relayed to me that the Conservative government scrapped the sexual assessment program laboratory for phallometric testing (monitoring a man’s response to pornography as a means of establishing his sexuality); hundreds of thousands of dollars in top-of-the-line equipment to assist in sexual offender risk management gone and turning it away from Psychology to programming. Most of RTC and assessment serves and houses low functioning inmates, aside from bonafide psychopaths, and high functioning sexual offenders, are the most dangerous. This is a major challenge implemented by the Conservative government and Bill C -10.
High Intensity Sexual Offender Programming: I observed and given the case files of a group of HISA. These are inmates that have committed pedophilia/murder, cyber pedophilia, serial rape, and severely sadistic and violent rape and murder. I attended a group session (sitting in a circle) with the offenders and the program directors. The purpose of the program is to treat for stress management, deviant sexual behaviour, cognitive distortions and life management skill training – Risk factor, cognitive distortions review. Once the program commences, the inmates, as well as myself and the program directors, are asked to “check in” whereby everyone says how they feel and any concerns, which are encouraged to debrief, can be expressed. The discussion turns to the individual offender where they are to individually state what are their own personal risk factors, triggers etc. They also talk about what plans they have to overcome adversity or unexpected events. The directors went through a written scenario and the inmates are supposed to pinpoint the triggers, and challenges that would elicit a negative outcome to the man in the scenario. The discussion ends with a “checking out” where we are to describe what was learned that day.
Dr. Tony Eccles, Registered Psychologist : Forensic Behaviour Services
Community-based clinic for the assessment and treatment of sexual offenders. There are three phases to the assessment process: interview, standardized questionnaires and phallometric testing. An assessment and an evaluation of treatment needs and suitability and other recommendations, such as institutional programming rather than community based like in High Risk offenders (who need more intensive programming and supervision), is conducted from the three phases. Low risk to moderate risk is the most suited for community-based assessment and treatment.
I had observed the three phases of assessment at the clinic. The interview process took about 3.5 hours. The accused/offender was asked questions pertaining to his childhood, relationship with parents, school, socialization and peers, sexual history, education and employment, present state of social environments, etc. Questionnaires took about 45 minutes, and phallometric testing about 2.5 hours. The offender is asked to put a mercury ring around his penis. There is a small current in the ring and when the offender is aroused the circumference of the ring changes and the current is measured on the computer. The offender is put into a room and is videotaped from the chest up. This is to ensure the offender does not fall asleep, or masturbate among others. There are 24 separate audio stimuli depicting adult female coercion 2x, Adult female consensual 2x, pre pubescent boy coercion 2x, pre pubescent boy consensual 2x, pre pubescent girl coercion 2x, pre pubescent girl consensual, and so on. It is designed to measure arousal levels using coercion, consensual, and violent on all age and gender groups. The results are then scored on a sexual and general violence risk appraisal sheet using actuarial risk appraisal tools such as the Static – 99R score, Sex offender risk appraisal guide (SORAG), PCL –R - Hare Psychopathy criterion, Stable – 2007 and Acute – 2001; and the sexual preference data (Audio).
My name is Joanne Legros, my practicum was done through Ministry of Justice Corrections Services of Canada at the Smithers Probation Office. I started my practicum on April 23, 2012 and completed it May 18, 2012. I have now completed my Community Crime and Social Justice Certificate.
Probation work in the Smithers area makes for a very busy day as a lot of the time you are commuting to various communities outside of Smithers. Smithers Community Corrections takes care of the area from Kitwanga to as far east as Tachet. To understand the whole process of probation from the time of arrest to the day of court and sometimes beyond is very interesting. During my month spent in Smithers, the staff at the corrections office were amazing. They went out of their way to share their knowledge and teach me all that was possible in a short time. I was introduced to most of the people in the building from court registry to lawyers, from crown counsel to sheriffs. I also spent a couple days in the court room following the process of the Criminal Justice system. All of the people that I met were very welcoming and made the practicum an unforgettable learning experience. I am returning to NWCC in September to carry on with completing my Associates Degree in Criminology.
One of the most rewarding experiences I found was when you monitor a client and you see how far they have come to improve their life. When you see the glow of happiness on their face and how proud they are of themselves that they are on the right track and doing so well is highly gratifying.
A special thank you to the staff of Smithers Community Corrections and Corrections Canada for allowing me to be a part of their agency to complete my practicum: Heather Canuel (Local Area Manager),Wilma deVries (PO14 or Bail Supervisor), Patricia Braiden (PO24), Marie Bereck (PO14 or Bail Supervisor), Anthony Noonan (PO24), and Courtney Nyuli (Administration). This experience is one that I would highly recommend to any student who would like to pursue a career in corrections as the knowledge that you will learn is invaluable.
Heather Canuel who is the Local Manager at the Smithers Community Corrections Office, encourages anyone interested in a career in corrections to "go for it", “working as a PO can be very stressful, but the rewards for helping someone are worth it."
I spent my CCSJ practicum experience at the Regional Coroners Office in Prince George. I worked with four amazing women in the Coroners Office; an Office Manager, Regional Coroner, and two Community Coroners. I went through many files with the office manager and helped to close files. I had the pleasure of watching the community coroners at work on many death scenes. I was able to experience many different deaths such as, natural, burn victim, drowning etc. We went with search and rescue by jet boat to one particular scene.
I watched the pathologist preform autopsies and observed as they identified a burn victim using dental records. The coroner set up a family viewing, which was the toughest part of the practicum; it was hard not to feel the family's pain as they mourned the loss of their loved one. The regional coroner put on a child death presentation for the RCMP and allowed me to watch, which was a great learning experience. The coroners service is a hidden service within our society but is an extremely important one. Coroners make many recommendations to help prevent further deaths or injuries from occurring. The coroners service strives for a safer province.
My work placement practicum was with Stacey Tyers, Poverty Law Advocate, at Terrace District Community Service Society. Stacey deals with issues in every level of government under various legislations, such as the Residential Tenancy Act, Welfare, Commission for Public Complaints about the RCMP, Employment Insurance, Workman’s Compensation, and various other social service matters.
My time with Stacey was profoundly eye-opening, making me more aware of the bigger picture, by explaining how individual clients’ issues are affected or created by government policies. I learned so much about theses services and networks available to citizens and about how those services are interpreted by people in Stacey’s position, people who are dedicated to providing fair and dignified assistance for their clients. I have developed a great appreciation for the culture of devoted people who are committed to helping people in need of a little understanding and help, usually to their own detriment. The most important thing I learned during my practicum is that, with a little compassion and willingness to stand up for something, one person can make a difference to the lives of others.
I feel my work placement was an ideal way to display a working knowledge of the various criminology, psychology and sociology classes that make up the CCSJ certificate program. I can honestly say that everything I learned and experienced with Stacey was a reflection of everything I was exposed to and learned within the CCSJ at NWCC.
My six week Community, Crime, and Social Justice (CCSJ) practicum was spent working at the local Terrace RCMP detachment. During my six weeks I worked with various RCMP members, generally shadowing them as they went about their work. Much of what was involved included riding along with members as they patrolled various areas both in and out of town, and attended a number of calls. It also included working with the Police Dog Service tracking laid scents, attending trials in Court, riding along with both the Traffic Service and Crime Reduction Unit, working with the Forensic Identification Service, and attending both school and community events such as the RCMP Bike Rodeo.
Over the course of the last six weeks, I worked alongside members from each individual RCMP division (of which there are many), getting an inside view into what each division entails, as well as the diversity of police work. All in all, I would have to say that working with the RCMP was a great experience, and a real eye opener as to what really goes on behind the scenes, and the significance of their work together as a team.
For anyone with a peaked interest in the Criminal Justice System, I would definitely encourage them to consider becoming involved in the CCSJ Certificate Program, as well as looking into a practicum in a related field to get an idea of what really goes on, and to get a sense of whether or not it is something they would like to pursue.