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by Lauren Golosky

Offenders in Saskatchewan's federal prisons are making use of available education programs, according to Correctional Services Canada (CSC).


Especially Adult Basic Education (ABE), which has the highest enrollment in Canada's federal institutions. Approximately 40 per cent of federal inmates are enrolled in ABE programming.


Across the country, a large number of offenders enter the correctional system with a low level education. This is discovered through thorough assessments. According to CSC, an estimated 65 per cent test at a completion level lower than grade eight; 82 per cent test lower than grade ten. 


But some people believe it takes more than education to rehabilitate an offender. Otto Driedger is the chair of the Circles of Accountability and Support (CoSA) in Regina, a group that works with sex offenders to reintegrate into society. He believes offenders should have the opportunity to garner skills in different areas, but the opportunities are getting slimmer.

"Increasingly, there is not much to do (in prison)," he said. "When people don't have objectives or activities or so forth, they tend to sort of then vegetate."


Driedger points to cuts in funding for programs such as the dairy farm at the Riverbend Institution, a minimum-security prison near Prince Albert.


"The farm has been closed, not only in Prince Albert, but basically they have been closing all the farm operations on the basis that not too many people go farming," he explained. "But that wasn't the major training orientation. Farming was one thing, but I mean learning to work and have a regular job and all that kind of thing was much more important than the specifics of farming."


Driedger believes the federal government's, and the provincial government by extension, tough stance on crime will do more harm than good, from alienating inmates to increasing the number of people incarcerated.


"The philosophy of the present government is on punishment," he said. "The more punishment you have, the less possibility there is of rehabilitation and of the person getting a positive orientation in order to reintegrate back into society."


Regina's CoSA program is one of many across the country. The group had a scare in early March when the federal government cut it's funding. While the decision was reversed, the group has future concerns going forward.


"All the support services will be increasingly cut," he said. "Everything in terms of doing things forward is being cut in order to balance the budget and reduce taxes."


Nick Jones is an associate professor in justice studies at the University of Regina. He agrees that opportunities for education, and other programs, in prisons can only help prisoners.


"Education can provide a number of things to the individual," Jones said. "A sense of self-worth, a sense of completion, a sense of value, which can then be incorporated into increasing their opportunities for other things."


However, neither Driedger nor Jones will say if a lack of education is the cause of crime. They both agree that there is merely correlation between crime and a lack of education.