Court house

Employability and life skills programming aims to reduce criminal re-offending rates

Newfoundland Corrections’ Adult Custody Section has five correctional facilities and two detention centres across the province, which provide services and programs for sentenced, remanded and detained offenders.

Heather Yetman, Manager of Institutional Programs, is responsible for leading a team who bring programs into the correctional facility that are relevant and meaningful to the offenders. The goal of programming is to reduce the risk of inmates re-offending, and studies show that it works.

According to research from the U.S. Department of Justice, educational and employment programming reduces prison misconduct, improves post-release employment outcomes, and lowers recidivism. Recidivism is the tendency for offenders to re-offend at some point in the future. Another study indicates that educational programming can reduce recidivism by as much as 43 per cent (Davis et. al, 2013).

When Yetman was approached by ABC Life Literacy Canada to run its Activate Learning program, she immediately signed up.

Activate Learning is a literacy program focused on supporting and empowering the unique population of Newfoundland and Labrador. The program aims to improve the number of training opportunities for adult learners, employees and workplaces in the areas of employability and life skills, health literacy and financial literacy.

Yetman was keen to run the program because she felt that it filled a programming gap for shorter-term inmates.

“Most of our programming is longer and more in-depth, so I loved these short, stand-alone workshops. They fit the need for shorter-term inmates serving sentences of up to 90 days and for those being released soon.”

Yetman opted for the employability and life skills workshops – entitled UP Skills for Work – as they offered training on employability and soft skills that would be helpful to inmates leaving the correctional system.

“The information in the program is incredibly valuable. The skills that they are learning – confidence, motivation, stress management, etc. – are important skills for anyone to have. These skills are helpful in making them more successful both in custody and in the community.”

Yetman explains that the skills offered through UP Skills for Work tie strongly to having a positive prosocial lifestyle, which can contribute to reducing an individual’s risk to re-offend. When people have strong prosocial skills, they are more likely to maintain and uphold the rules and norms of society, and therefore become more law-abiding citizens.

To date, Yetman has run 27 workshops across four of its five correctional institutions, and will soon be expanding programming to its Labrador location. ABC Life Literacy Canada delivers the programming, making it easy for the institution to implement.

There has been great interest in the programming from the inmates, with over 135 individuals taking part in workshops about stress management, confidence and collaboration.

To learn more about Activate Learning, visit