A Light in Dark Places Around The World

Like many students, Terry Hackett (’98) attended a career fair on campus hoping to get some ideas for his future career. A member of the TWU Rugby team and student council at the time, he never expected that after filling out an application form with the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) he’d spend the next twenty plus years working in prisons around the world.

“It’s been an interesting journey, for sure,” Hackett says with a laugh.

Hackett says that working in prisons wasn’t a career path he had in mind. But during his third year, he started working as a Correctional Officer, working night shifts in order to help pay tuition. He found he enjoyed working in this field, and transitioned into becoming a Parole officer after he graduated. These experiences helped him realize the importance of ensuring proper care for those who are sentenced to time in prison.

“A majority of people who have been sentenced come back to the community one day,” says Hackett, “so if you don’t put in place rehabilitation focused programs or systems for those who want to take advantage of them, we’re not doing them or the community any service.”

Hackett’s passion for preventing more victims has been a crucial part of the way he’s approached his work as he’s become a leader in this field.


One of the first ways Hackett saw what is possible when communities take ownership and assist in the caring for incarcerated Canadians was during his time as Warden of Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village, an Aboriginal-focused, minimum security facility in British Columbia. He took this job in 2007 and stayed there for two years.

“We were trying to focus on the things that needed to be done to provide the service that  Canadians expected, the safe rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders,” says Hackett, who took these experiences with him when he moved on to lead the Correctional Service Canada team in one of the most infamous prisons in the world—Sarpoza Prison, Afghanistan. As Director of Correctional Operations for the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, it was his job to lead Canadian efforts to improve the prison, specifically in the area of mentoring and training Prison Staff.

“Canada is seen as an international leader when it comes to Corrections,” says Hackett. Because of this, he wanted to do whatever he could to help pass on that knowledge.

After serving in Afghanistan for a year, Hackett returned to Canada in 2011 and served as a Warden at a multi-security level institution in Abbotsford, BC. While working here, he earned his Master’s Degree in Human Security and Peacebuilding from Royal Roads University, where he focused on the rule of law and International correctional reform.

“I did my research in Rwanda on the role civil society played in basically assisting the government to rebuild the correctional system after the genocide,” Hackett says. His thesis was published in the South African journal of Criminology.

In 2016, Hackett was promoted to Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Correctional Operations for the Pacific Region (BC and the Yukon).


Toward the end of his 22 years working for CSC, Hackett also worked as a Sr. consultant with Swedish-based Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law. Because of this, he spent a great deal of time in Kenya, where he worked on training human rights officers and Prison Directors on the Nelson Mandela Rules—the UN minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners.

It was an exciting time, but Hackett’s focus was definitely divided as he frequently flew back and forth from Kenya to Canada. With one foot at home and another abroad, Hackett’s wife Yvonne encouraged him to pick one job.

Although he loved his time working in Canada, his passion for international work had been steadily growing. So in 2017, he retired from the Government of Canada and pressed into consultancy, which included some time working for the UN developing a global e-learning course on the same Nelson Mandela Rules he was training officials in Kenya on. In March, 2018, he accepted an opportunity to work with the International Committee of the Red Cross as Regional Prison Systems Advisor.


Today, Terry and Yvonne are stationed in Manila, Philippines, where he works with teams to help improve the humanitarian conditions of confinement throughout Fiji, the Pacific Islands, Papa New Guinea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

In his new role, Hackett advises ICRC teams in his area of responsibility, as well as works with governments to address their systemic issues and to help systems improve, reform, adjust in order to ensure the well-being of detainees.

“Our teams go into prisons in a confidential manner and as part of our modalities, have access to all detainees and all parts of a prison,” says Hackett. “We interview detainees and staff to get an understanding of what the challenges are there. We can bring those concerns confidentially to the authorities and present recommendations as well as support structural or systemic changes in various areas.”

Having worked in Corrections for most of his life, Hackett is able to speak with prison authorities as a peer.

“I’ve been there,” says Hackett. “I’ve run prisons. I know the language and the challenges the authorities are facing. We can then work together to find practical and operational solutions that detainees, prison staff and ultimately communities can benefit from”.


Every day is different and presents unique challenges, but that’s just the way Hackett likes it.

“I like to problem solve and apply the critical thinking and leadership skills that TWU installed in me years ago,” says Hackett. “I like to find innovative and sustainable solutions to new problems. I love when someone brings me a complex problem. Let’s sit down and figure it out.”

Throughout his life, he’s developed skill and experience in how detention systems can improve and reform to the benefit both the community and the prisoners. Hackett is so grateful to share his experiences with others who are seeking to improve their correctional systems.

“It’s a really unique opportunity not many people get to do. Every day, I know how blessed we are to be doing this and that we are where we are meant to be. It’s been a great journey,” says Hackett with a big smile.