Correctional Services of Canada trainee in training to become a prison guard, Kingston, Ontario. © Jeremy Kohm

When Jeremy Kohm sent through this portrait, I saw the boots and the overalls and presumed it was a photo story on fishermen or lumberjacks. Wrong. A trainee prison guard.

I asked a few questions.

Tell us about the training facility and the town it’s located in.

Kingston, with a population of approximately 120,000, is located on the main highway roughly at the midpoint between Toronto and Montreal. Kingston is a town comprised of university students (18,000 who attend Queen’s University est. 1841), military personnel (as there is a large Canada Forces Base in the vicinity) and the Kingston Penitentiary (which houses some of Canada’s most notorious criminals).

The training facilities are a stones throw to Kingston Penitentiary which, having opened in 1835, is the country’s oldest prison. The penitentiary is considered maximum security and houses some 400 inmates – of which 40% have received a life sentence.

Do all trainees do range shooting?

When talking to the trainees what struck me the most was the brief nature of the job training program. It consists of four phases; 4-8 weeks of online training, 2-4 weeks of workbook assignments, 8 weeks of practical training and then 2 weeks of on-site training.

Most of the facilities were relatively pedestrian from a visual perspective – so I decided to photograph some of the trainees at the range once they had finished their target practice. This portion of the training was a mandatory element in their job preparation.

Who are the trainees? Where did they come from?

Some were just looking for a job whereas a few others were a little more idealistic and cited the reason as “wanting to make a difference.”  The backgrounds were equally varied, some had a military background whereas others had no experience and decided this career was purely an alternative to becoming a police officer. It really was quite varied.

Most of the trainees were in uniform, however, this one subject for some reason was able to wear clothing of his choice. In all honesty I’m not too sure why or if he was exempt. He allowed me to take the photograph as long as his identity remained hidden.

Anything else?

I do vaguely remember that punishment was given out in the form of push-ups. Punishable offences were essentially exactly what you imagine, things like tardiness and negligent safety behaviour.

While the trainees were waiting for my assistant and I to rig up the lights they were scouring the shooting range for unfired bullets. Apparently, they could redeem the bullets as a means of reducing the number of pushups required. Their eyes were constantly scanning as they paced in attempts to discover this odd form of currency.

Huh, weird.

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