A minimum security institution in Edmonton has been honoured with a national award for how it helps indigenous female inmates prepare for life outside prison.

The Buffalo Sage Wellness House run by Native Counselling Services and Corrections Canada won a Public Sector Leadership Award earlier this year.

The 16-bed facility in the inner-city started two years ago and is similar to a half-way house. Corrections Canada sees it as a model worth adopting across the country.

"We found a different way to do corrections that is so very powerful but still holds women accountable," said Brenda Lepage, regional deputy commissioner for the Prairie Region of Corrections Canada.

The program offers women intensive counselling as well as ways to spend time out in the community to prepare for life on the outside.

Meagan Young, 24, has four more years left to serve on an 11-year prison term for manslaughter but she is already taking part in the program.

Young says she suffered abuse as a child and eventually fell into a life of drugs and crime.  She’s now ready to put her past behind her.

"I’m done with that lifestyle," she said.

Young has received spiritual guidance from elders and is allowed to have her son come visit.

"You feel like a person again," she said. "You don’t feel like an inmate."

Buffalo Sage IPAC Video


With files from the CBC's Gareth Hampshire