New warden sees key role in building relationships

Building relationships between inmates and staff is a key goal for the new warden at Bowden Institution.

Brenda LePage

Brenda LePage

BOWDEN — Building relationships between inmates and staff is a key goal for the new warden at Bowden Institution.

Dave Pelham is no stranger to the minimum security prison after serving as a deputy warden from April 2002 to August 2008.

In fact, his first introduction to Bowden occurred in the mid-1980s when he took a firearms course when he served as an officer in Drumheller Institution.

Pelham, who has served at six prisons during his 27 years with Corrections Canada, was sworn in during a ceremony on Thursday afternoon.

He replaces Floyd Wilson, who is retiring after serving as warden since 2005.

“Correctional work is about building relationships and getting to know the inmates who reside here so that you can deal with issues and concerns, which allows you to move forward and ensure that it’s a safe place to work and move on into the community to make it a safer place as well,” Pelham said.

Inmates and officers need to get know one another. “It’s a two-way street.”

“The inmates have to know exactly who the officer is and what the expectations are in the norms of how we do business.”

He said the inmates need to know that so they can see consistency.

Pelham said staffing levels at the institution are appropriate and fall within guidelines.

There are about 400 staff at the prison and 641 inmates as of Sept. 1, including 571 in medium security and 70 in minimum security on the complex called the “farm.”

Pelham said he will examine everything from security to re-integration for inmates into society.

He said the prison could have up to 700 inmates at any one time, which results in much double bunking.

“I would like to reduce the population so we can get down into a more manageable level.”

He said the large population of aboriginal offenders requires that authorities examine methods to meet their needs.

Pelham said Bowden is been the largest of the six institutions he has served at.

“There’s a largeness but there’s also the complexities with regard to the population makeup and the parties attached to that.”

He said such issues as programming, mental health and the aboriginal component create a “complex makeup of dynamics” at Bowden.

He said at the same time the institution must serve the public and be safe.

Pelham has served as a living unit officer, case management officer, co-ordinator of case management, unit manager, assistant warden and deputy warden.

He was a warden at Riverbend Institution near Prince Albert, Sask., from August 2008 to May 2009.

He holds a bachelor of science from Dalhousie University in Halifax majoring in psychology with a minor in biology.