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October 27, 2017 10:52 pm

Work Program Helps Transition Men from Prison Life to Healthy, Community Living

Saturday, May 14, 2016 @ 6:55 AM

Prince George, B.C. – It’s a warm May afternoon and a work crew of four men are putting the finishing touches on a renovation project inside a home in a residential neighbourhood in Prince George.

GroundWork PG member busy at work - photos 250News

GroundWork PG member busy at work – photos 250News

The men vary in ages and those passing by don’t give them a second thought. They have no idea this is not your regular work crew though, it’s a group of ex-convicts participating in GroundWorkPG – an employment program for men transitioning back into the community.

It’s run by Justin Foster and it’s about to celebrate its third year of existence this August.

“So the guys make a wage, they work out in the community. Right now it’s four days a week at eight hours a day. We have between six and 10 guys or so and they do a variety of work.”

He says some of the work is paid contracts with organizations like Aboriginal Housing and partnerships with the City of Prince George. The men – residents of the Prince George Activator Society (a halfway house) – also work with seniors and people with disabilities.

And what’s more, Foster says it works.

“We’ve had just under 50 people in three years and our success rate is really high in terms of the men transitioning back into the community, that’s ultimately our goal. We haven’t had any major incidents, no one has committed a crime while working on this program so that’s definitely a success.”

He says he doesn’t have a background in this field and was introduced to it by a friend.

Justin Foster, Program Coordinator, GroundWork PG

Justin Foster, Program Coordinator, GroundWork PG

“He’d got some new funding to start a new employment program and it seemed like it would be a good fit so I thought I would take it on. I guess because I believe in the rehabilitation system is ultimately what it comes down to.”

In other words, Foster doesn’t believe in locking away criminals and throwing away the key.

“That does not work at all. One of the things I’ve learned doing this work is that most of our clients come from poverty. They come from low levels of education and addiction and those are major factors in their crimes.

“And so having an opportunity to work, to be educated, to be a part of a community is something that many have never had and they want to be here, they want to give back. They don’t want that life they were living before so this is an opportunity to do that.”


Anything that helps to get these people on track to improve their lives is a good thing.

For those who want to work and be rehabilitated I say good for you. For those who don’t, then of course you can do the time for the crime.

covering up the garbage on teh walls is a great idea but in fact what this does is give the taggers a new canvas to draw on…and next year it will happen all over again….the more things change the more they stay the same.

    I don’t completely agree with that. The police have taken action against quite a few of these taggers, to great effect.
    It, like a lot of other things, will become socially unacceptable.

      fair enough, but if the program, overall, police included was effective we wouldn’t need to repaint the same places year after year.

      I think the cleaning up of the graffitti is great, even if only over night, but unfortunately a waste of money in a lot of cases.

      if they , whomever they are, want to make it acceptable, why repaint?

I also think GroundworkPG is a great idea. More power to them! If it helps get them back on track, its invaluable!

Good work. But hasn’t activators existed for over 30 years, perhaps 35+ years. During this time they did perform many community favours – did we forget to report on this.
And, what about Hudta Lake – now, that was not ‘halfway’ but minimum security where inmates could be taken out on various community tasks – mostly in Forestry related tasks.
And then we have Hilton-on-the-Hill; there too, minimum inmates could be taken out for short jobs, as well they could build some items for parks, Forestry sites and perhaps many other projects.
So is GroundworkPG new? Perhaps in name but not so in function. There is most likely a long history of success stories here – if one cares to look.

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