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Vancouver Island University program pairs students with inmates to study criminology


Markus Batraki wants people to know he's just a guy getting his degree.

"I'm studying digital media, I'm studying marketing, I'm studying criminology," Batraki says.

He just happens to be doing it while incarcerated at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre.

"You work on yourself, you work on your behaviours, and you build support," the inmate says.

Batraki is part of Vancouver Island University's Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which puts inmates and university students together to study criminology.

"There’s a lot of really great, smart, hardworking, compassionate people who are incarcerated and I think that this program helps other people see that," says VIU criminology professor Lauren Mayes.

The participants work together on projects and have group discussions at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre and the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre in Victoria.

"It was never forced," says student Natasha Krod. "It was all super casual and just realizing you’re more alike with people than you think."

"They all have families, they had jobs, they had lives," says fellow student Thea Karmazynski. "This is just a little hiccup in their lives that they want to get over."

This group explores how crimes can be rooted in untreated trauma and desperation.

They say if more corrections programming offered education and employable skills, there would be fewer people cycling in and out of jail.

"I have a set release plan," says Batraki. "To just continue with it and to help other people learn from the mistakes that I’ve made is how I plan to contribute and make up for the things I’ve done."

It's a plan he says he'll put into action once he is released next month.

Vancouver Island University is now looking to expand the program to other communities over the next three years. Top Stories

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