Doug Fraser, a teacher at Ford Mountain Correction Centre in Chilliwack River Valley, spoke passionately about his program for inmates in January 2020. The Chilliwack Board of Education is now joining other school boards in requesting more reliable funding for programs in provincial institutions. (YouTube/Chilliwack School District)

Doug Fraser, a teacher at Ford Mountain Correction Centre in Chilliwack River Valley, spoke passionately about his program for inmates in January 2020. The Chilliwack Board of Education is now joining other school boards in requesting more reliable funding for programs in provincial institutions. (YouTube/Chilliwack School District)

Chilliwack school board unaminous in support for new prison education funding model

Ford Mountain Correctional Centre sees up to fifty per cent participation in high school program

When Troy James was in the prison system as a young adult, he knew he wanted a better life for himself and his young family.

He had been in and out of the system since he was 15, right past what should have been his high school graduation day. He tried to keep up with schooling, but accessing teachers was difficult. Then he heard about an education program at Ford Mountain Correctional Centre and everything changed for him.

He fought to get accepted into Ford Mountain, approached the program’s teacher, Doug Fraser to get started in the program, and learned that he could be a good student. Once he graduated, he became a tutor just to stay in the program with Fraser. Together, they got him into the UFV carpentry program following his release, and today he is a successful tradesman and supports his family of four.

James told his inspiring story to the Chilliwack Board of Education in January 2020, as part of a presentation about the successes and challenges the program faces. He is just one of 156 inmates that graduated from high school at Ford Mountain from 2008 to 2020.

At that meeting, board members told Fraser that they would help support his program in any way they could.

And now, the board is doing just that, by requesting a new funding policy that would ensure inmates at Ford Mountain can continue to study.

Chilliwack is one of a handful of districts across the province that partner with BC Corrections to provide a high school graduation program for medium security inmates. Over the past 10 years, the local program at Ford Mountain Corrections Centre has cost the school district a total of just over $300,000. That is money over and above the funds allocated from the Ministry of Education under the Continuing Education funding model. There have had more than 1,300 registered students and enjoy a participation rate that varies between 30 and 50 per cent.

It’s a very popular, successful program that has proven to lower recidivism in the community. Half of those who graduate from the program don’t end up back in the system, Fraser said in 2020. He’s worked that out to equal 570 person years of that were not spent in prison, since he began teaching at Ford Mountain in 2008. That equals a savings of more than $45 million for the province.

However, as reported previously by The Progress, next year’s school district budget is going to be tight. And that puts the program in jeopardy.

So now the board is requesting that the program be run under “sustained special purpose funding to provide year-round educational services to correctional facilities being supported by public school districts.”

There are fewer than 10 districts in the province that have medium security facilities in their communities, and it’s up to each school board to decide if they want to continue the partnership year to year.

Currently, the funding is based on courses, which fluctuates sometimes daily in the prison system.

Fraser said he spoke with then-education minister Rob Fleming about the possibility of changing the funding model, but it never happened. As it is, he spends about 30 per cent of his work time recruiting students to increase funding, advocating for funding, and otherwise doing paperwork. That’s time he could be spending teaching, he said.

“All of us who work in the correctional centres are hopeful,” Fraser said at the January 2020 meeting. He paused to hold back tears. “There would never be a question on funding and we could focus on teaching and doing what we need to do.”

Trustee David Swankey brought the motion forward at the March 9 board meeting, and it was supported unanimously by the board, with Trustee Barry Neufeld absent.

The current funding model under Continuing Education results in “instability in funding and threat to the continuity of service,” he said in his report to the board.

In addition to asking the province for a new funding model, the board also mentioned they would talk about the program during budget talks this spring.

READ MORE: No inmates get early release from Chilliwack jail as B.C. takes measures to curb COVID-19

READ MORE: Chilliwack school board mulls over ‘risky’ move to balance budget


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Chilliwack School DistrictEducationprison

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly Ng (left) tries to get the attention of Podzol and Aquila as twin sister, Pauline Ng, snaps a photo of the two dogs by a field of hyacinths at the Chilliwack Tulips attraction on April 13. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
PHOTOS: Strolling through tulips, hyacinths and daffodils at Chilliwack Tulips attraction

Colourful spring flower attraction opened on the weekend in Chilliwack, continues into May

Cannabis plants visible under bright lights inside a large facility at Shxwha:y Village on July 6, 2018. The reserve was home to the licensed producer for Indigenous Bloom, which opened up a dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve. On April 12, 2021, Shxwha:y announced Health Canada approval for a licensed production facility at the village. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack’s Shxwha:y First Nation approved for cannabis cultivation and processing facility

It will be the first majority-owned Indigenous on-reserve licensed facility in Western Canada

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
UPDATE: 1 of 3 puppies stolen from South Surrey returned to owner

American Bulldog puppy recovered after being sold at Mission car show

Two women walk past ‘The Meeting’ sculptures in White Rock’s Miramar Plaza Wednesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
New public art in White Rock faces criticism as the ‘two Michaels’ remain in China’s custody

‘I would encourage people to go out and enjoy it’ said Vancouver Biennale founder

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Fraser Surrey Docks leads to $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Most Read