Sitting in his cell at Springhill Institution in Nova Scotia after being sentenced for drug trafficking, Jeremy had a choice to make. He could sit there and be angry, frustrated, and sedentary, or he could do something productive with himself, and maybe just maybe, become a better person. At just 19 years old, he had lived a messy life – hectic as he calls it. He had no job, no education, no family, and was trying to make a living making all the wrong decisions. So sitting in his cell that day, he decided to try something new.
“I was interested in construction so I looked into CORCAN,” he says. “They were looking for workers and I wanted something to do with my time so I went for it. As it turns out, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.”
CORCAN is a rehabilitation program for offenders incarcerated at the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). It provides offenders with employment and employability skills training while incarcerated in federal penitentiaries, and after they are released into the community. This is done through on-the-job and third-party certified vocational training that focuses on four business lines: Manufacturing, Textiles, Construction, and Services.
Jeremy spent his days learning the ins and outs of construction. He helped with concrete restoration within the institution, he repaired and replaced doors, he completed a framing course and built a shed that was used by the institution to store various items, and completed countless odd jobs around the institution fixing, replacing, and building. It was hard work, says Jeremy, but made even more worthwhile because of the guidance and support he received from his CORCAN instructors.
“They were good to us,” he says. “They knew we were in a hard spot in our lives and respected that. They treated us like people, not just criminals, and they spent hours and hours teaching us new things and helping us get better at the craft.”
Jeremy served two years at Springhill before leaving on parole. He was fortunate to get involved with Choices for Youth, an organization in St. John’s Newfoundland that empowers local at-risk youth by providing them with housing, employment, and education supports as they transition into adulthood. As part of their programming, they run Impact Construction, a social enterprise construction company that provides on-the-job safety and construction training for youth ready to secure long-term, sustainable employment or pursue skilled trades training. Jeremy got a job with them, along with his colleague and fellow parolee Sheldon.
When asked about his five-year plan, Jeremy has it all laid out: finish schooling for Business Administration, start a business, and be off parole. Ten years from now? He sees himself with a steady career, a home, and a far removed from what calls his past life.
“I’m a different person now,” he says. “I have respect for life, a work ethic, skills and knowledge. If I didn’t make the decision to work for CORCAN, I know I’d be back in jail because I wouldn’t have had anything to live for. Now I do.”
Let’s Talk would like to thank Jeremy for sharing his personal story with us. We wish him all the very best as he embarks on his future!