Scott Bertrand recalls receiving the handwritten thank you card in the mail. That’s not unusual, but this card was from a former incarcerated individual and Bertrand was one of the BC Correctional officers who oversaw his time in the provincial correctional system.
As a young correctional officer, new to the job, Bertrand supervised the man’s living unit, learning that they grew up in the same hometown. It was the individual’s first time in a correctional centre and he was having some family challenges.
“He needed someone to talk to, about his life and plans. He saw there was no judgment from me and I was able to relate some of my experiences to what he was going through,” Bertrand recalls.
After the man’s release, he sent the card thanking Bertrand for taking the time. “We really do have an impact,” Bertrand says, moved to know he affected the life of another person.
“I really saw that many people in custody are receptive to change and we have a huge opportunity.”
“We’re dealing with human beings who have feelings and hopes, and dreams. Our job is to assist them in getting their life back on track, and just to be kind, it costs nothing to be kind.” – BC Corrections’ staff
Marking 10 years with BC Corrections, Bertrand started working for the organization at 19, fulfilling years-long interest in the field. “I knew at a very young age that this was something I wanted to do,” he says.
While incoming officers are often a little older, with other job and life experience, Bertrand brought both a keen interest, a background with the community and travelling, and awareness that communication would be one of his greatest strengths.
Individuals in custody of all ages appreciate his position of mutual respect, demonstrated through words and actions.
“Communication is a huge part of what we do. I reinforce that I’m going to treat them with respect and all I ask in return is that they do the same,” he says. “As soon as a client sees that you feel that empathy, it’s amazing how much progress you can make with them,” Bertrand says.
Rewards of the job
On a personal level, the married father of young children appreciates the growth opportunities and work-life balance BC Corrections affords.
With 10 correctional centres around B.C. housing about 1,600 incarcerated individuals at any one time, BC Corrections employees work directly with people in custody, supporting positive change in their lives and working toward successful reintegration into society.
“Job of a BC correctional officer is unique in many ways; I would say that it’s uniquely rewarding and it’s not like something you’ve probably ever done before. It requires excellent communication skills, it requires good judgment, and it requires physical fitness. It requires an ability to have compassion and empathy for someone who maybe comes from a completely different background than you.” – BC Corrections’ staff
In addition to compensation, benefits and pension, a flexible shift schedule also allows officers to balance family responsibilities. Professionally, Bertrand also enjoys the diverse career opportunities with room to grow and advance.
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