UWinnipeg Brings Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to the Prairies
Eye-opening program brings incarcerated women and post-secondary students together to learn as peers, behind correctional facility walls.
UW RELEASE – 2014/073
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Thursday, May 8, 2014
WINNIPEG, MB – This week six University of Winnipeg students boarded a bus to meet with their new classmates: six inmates at the Women’s Correctional Centre in Headingly. Over the next eight weeks, the group will earn course credit as they explore Issues in the Inner City: An Introduction to Community Development & Cooperative Alternatives — a class aiming to provide economic skills and knowledge that ‘inside’ students can use to successfully transition out of the correctional system. Weekly classes will be held in the jail, a key component to the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program philosophy.
“So the ‘inside’ students get a glimpse of university life, while the ‘outside’ students learn more about the lives of the women in prison, what led them there, and what it is like for them to leave,” explains Dr. Judith Harris, Associate Professor in the Department of Urban and Inner City Studies in the Faculty of Arts. “We create a very sacred space inside the prison, where people feel they can talk about things they may be hesitant to talk about.”
Harris helped develop this pilot of the program for UWinnipeg after receiving training at an Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program Think Tank located in a maximum security prison in Graterford, Pennsylvania. The Inside-Out program was first introduced to this country by Dr. Simone Davis, the English professor coordinating Canada’s developing national program. Davis arrives in Winnipeg today (Thursday) and will be available for interviews at select times by request, along with the UWinnipeg faculty members leading the Inside-Out program at UWinnipeg: Dr. Judith Harris and instructor Larry Morrissette.
While in town Davis will join other program collaborators, including the team that brought the program to BC, to speak Saturday morning at the “Educating Justice” conference hosted by UWinnipeg’s Department of Criminal Justice and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Justice Studies.
Davis says that, with its strong Indigenous community, Winnipeg is an ideal fit. “It’s particularly meaningful that this program is coming on board in the early stage of development of the national program, precisely because of who’s on the ground in Winnipeg, the partners involved,” says Davis. “The understanding and wisdom of the Indigenous educators and community organizers can contribute so much in developing a program that is relevant and useful, in a country where Indigenous men and women are incarcerated in grossly disproportionate numbers.”
Davis says Canada’s national Inside-Out program—based out of Wilfred Laurier University and the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener—has formed the Walls to Bridges Collective of incarcerated and non-incarcerated peoples to develop training specific to the Canadian context, and Winnipeg partners will help ensure Indigenous ways of knowing and doing are reflected.
The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program uses teaching methods designed to ensure both groups of students learn as equals. For the UWinnipeg pilot, tuition is covered for ‘inside’ students, who will be able to put their news skills to use in two co-operative businesses currently being developed out of the Eagle Women Lodge transitional housing facility in Winnipeg’s West End. The pilot is being supported by UWinnipeg’s Experiential Learning Network and The Opportunity Fund.
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Megan Benedictson, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
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