Red Deer College’s newest two-year Justice Studies Diploma began after the Head of Programs for the Red Deer Remand Centre, Byron Reynolds, had troubles recruiting and retaining correction officers.
“At the time, we were going through a large recruitment phase and we were having trouble finding suitable local candidates,” Reynolds said. “We were doing a lot of interviews with people outside of the province and I wondered why there was no one locally.
“Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge weren’t having the same issue, so I wondered what was the difference. I pinned it down to the lack of a justice studies program locally, which would have gave us a local pool of talent.”
After coming to this realization, Reynolds — who took his certifications at Lethbridge College in a similar idea — gave the College a call.
“He called us at the College and asked us out of the blue whether there is a possibility that we may develop a program in this field because he was noticing a real challenge with recruiting and retaining employees in his organization,” Torben Andersen, RDC dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said.
“It was a stimulus for us to look more closely and convene a bunch of stakeholders like himself to see the breadth of the need and how we can address that.”
After a few years of putting the program together, the final product finally came to fruition at a ceremony on May 24th, with the first group of students beginning in Fall 2018.
“I was quite surprised it went this whole way,” Reynolds said. “There were a couple times I thought maybe it died on the table somewhere and the next thing you know I would get a telephone call or an email asking for a letter of support or come to another stakeholder meeting. It seemed to have kept on rolling.
“I am happy to say, ‘Here we are starting in the fall’”.
The new program will offer graduates the opportunity to begin entry-level jobs in corrections, Victim Services, peace officer positions and many other related fields — all of which are needed in Central Alberta, according to Andersen.
“The needs for good people to be involved in the justice system is growing and it is really clear there was a gap that had grown in the community,” Andersen said. “Many other communities have programs like this and we need one here that is rooted in the people and issues of our community.”
Not only will the program allow students to stay in Central Alberta, it will also be firmly rooted in experiential learning through a capstone practicum and a focus on indigenous peoples experiences through the justice system.
“Our program will prepare people for jobs and also enable them to carry on to university degree-level studies in related fields,” Andersen said, adding that this program shows RDC’s commitment to continuing to offer certificates, diplomas, trades and other fields while the College makes their transition into a university.
“We think that the diploma is the right credential in this field at this particular time,” he added.
While a degree-program in justice studies would be a “dream”, according to Andersen — that transition currently isn’t in the plan.
“Our first priority is to do a great job with this diploma, building a reputation for it in the community,” he said.
Twenty students have already been fully accepted into the program, with enrollment capped at 40 in the first year.
“It would be ideal to grow the program beyond that but we need to get solid at this level,” Andersen said. “There will be two full-time faculty members that will be focused on this program and then there will be faculty members from other areas such as sociology, philosophy and law who will teach courses.
“There will also be a few faculty members that are teaching one course because of their professional expertise.”