Firefighting mom eyes career at correctional centre

Firefighting mom eyes career at correctional centre

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T.J. Buck from Penticton has a passion for fighting wildfires, but is now looking at a career as a correctional officer at the Okanagan Correctional Centre near Oliver. Photo by Lyonel Doherty
T.J. Buck from Penticton has a passion for fighting wildfires, but is now looking at a career as a correctional officer at the Okanagan Correctional Centre near Oliver. Photo by Lyonel Doherty
T.J. Buck from Penticton has a passion for fighting wildfires, but is now looking at a career as a correctional officer at the Okanagan Correctional Centre near Oliver. Photo by Lyonel Doherty

A Penticton mother who believes in giving people a second chance wants to make a difference in the lives of inmates at the Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver.

T.J. Buck, 34, cleared the first hurdle (literally) during a recent physical ability test at the Oliver Community Centre. She hardly broke a sweat but agreed the short obstacle course is harder than it looks.

Candidates are given two minutes and 50 seconds to navigate a set of stairs, zig-zag hurdles, a push-and-pull station, and vault rail. The final, untimed obstacle is carrying a 70-pound torso bag 50 feet.

Buck is accustomed to carrying heavy stuff as part of her job working for the BC Wildfire Service. This is her fourth season fighting fires; last summer she worked on the Testalinda Creek fire in Oliver.

Buck said she always wanted to fight fires, and has a passion for determining their cause and origin.

But now another door has opened at the Okanagan Correctional Centre (OCC) where a different opportunity awaits.

“I’m a large believer of social justice and I want (to bring about) positive change,” she said.

Buck studied criminology at Okanagan College and believes working as a correctional officer would be a good fit for her. Agreed, she wouldn’t be sitting on top of a mountain taking in gorgeous scenery, but she would be helping individuals on the road to rehabilitation.

“I won’t be an inspiration to everyone . . . but rehabilitation is definitely one of the big things that has drawn me to the job.”

Buck is looking forward to working one-on-one with the inmates, but she recognizes the risk.

“Fear is human nature,” she stated, noting that candidates have been given a lot of information about the job and are aware of the risks.

“You have to be here for the right reasons,” she pointed out.

Buck hopes to have an opportunity to pass on some of her firefighting skills to inmates who might consider pursuing that as a career when they are released.

“Any way I can help be part of that change,” she stated.

Buck admitted she was initially disgruntled with the justice system when she first started schooling. But her college course opened her mind to how the system works.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s not broken. It needs some revamping in certain areas.”

Her faith in the system inspires her to help create programs for inmates who deserve more than being locked up with the key thrown away.

By Lyonel Doherty

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