UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Walking out with your spirit : the educational experiences of former aboriginal inmates in British Columbia prison settings as an impetus for transformational prison education Gore, Aruna Jagdatt


The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), in its endeavour for rehabilitation, has neglected to find relevant solutions to address the growing statistics of incarceration in the federal prison settings as they relate to Aboriginal Peoples. The recent CSC figures (2008) state that 18% of federal inmates are Aboriginal men and 33.1% of the federal female population are Aboriginal women. This research project spotlights the federal prison education program as a medium for change and a stepping stone to enhance the lives of Aboriginal inmates after they leave the prison. Currently the Adult Basic Education program is situated inside the prison with a focus on elementary and high school. Twenty former Aboriginal inmates participated in individual interviews where they shared their lived experiences surrounding education in and out of prison. They also suggested ways that prison education could be improved. The theoretical framework focused on how education can be used as a tool for liberation as opposed to assimilation, by focusing on collaboration through dialogue, a genuine appreciation for Aboriginal culture and an understanding of the impact of colonization. The research process of building on the voices of the Aboriginal inmates to suggest and create educational frameworks in order to advance much needed educational changes in CSC is a form of taking agency and a step towards liberation. The findings of the research reveal challenges around historical and systemic barriers for the Aboriginal inmates that prevent them from participating fully in prison education. Recommendations are offered in the areas of support, educating staff on Aboriginal perspectives of justice, incorporating culture, making education mandatory and a transforming curriculum in regards to prison education for Aboriginal inmates. An Aboriginal Educational Framework (AEF) for prison education was developed in response to the participants’ suggestions and findings, the literature, and personal reflections. The AEF includes healing through emotional literacy, an emancipatory approach to pedagogy and curriculum, and strategies for transforming prison education by incorporating the suggestions from the project participants. These three key components solicit change on its own, but together they have the capacity to release the Aboriginal inmate along with their spirit.

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