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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Breaking with tradition : role development in a prison-based baccalaureate program Clarke, Grant Stewart


Prisons are organized to hold and control inmates. Inmates traditionally oppose authority, and the social ecology of prisons resists change-oriented programs. Successful educational programs appear to neutralize certain negative aspects of the social ecology while engaging inmates in setting and working toward pro-social goals. One initiative is the Simon Fraser University prison-based baccalaureate program in the humanities. Inmates in this program appear to develop positive student roles. Explanations for the program's apparent success had not previously examined the interaction between inmates and the social ecology of the program. Previous accounts of the program relied on anecdotal reviews and psychological explanations of inmate development. To bridge this gap, this study was designed to explicate a theoretical model to explain student roles and associated feeling states and expectations, to operationalize it, and to examine relationships with various socio-demographic and carceral variables. Three approaches were used. The first involved formulating the model, drawing on previous studies and experience with inmates in this program, literature about the program, and role theory. A model of role development was posited. It has five stages: (1) Recruitment, (2) Disorientation, (3) Separation, (4) Transition, and (5) Solidarity. The second phase involved operationalizing the model. Seventy written statements were constructed representing inmates' feelings toward prison, and the university program, at each stage of the model. They were judged by five experts in correctional education who strongly concurred in assigning the 70 statements into respective stages. The second phase also involved a card sort of these 70 statements by 33 inmate university students in one prison. They sorted the cards according to: (1) "how I feel now"; (2) "how I used to feel, but not now"; (3) "never felt like this"; and (4) "don't know." For the third phase, data were analyzed using Pearson correlations and ANOVA statistical procedures. The major conclusions which emerged from the study pertained to the three purposes. With regard to the explication of a model of role development, it was concluded that (1) Role theory is an appropriate framework for articulating a model of prison ecology, and (2) Inmates experience five distinct and sequential stages of role development. With regard to the operationalization of the model, it was concluded that (1) Judges found the overall model plausible and workable, (2) Judges were able to reliably discriminate items into stages, and (3) Inmates' responses confirmed intra-stage reliability. With regard to relationships between scores obtained from operationalizing the model and various socio-demographic and prison-related variables, it was concluded that (1) The expected associations were not confirmed, (2) Inmates' forwarding of feelings from previous incarcerations supports the Importation model, (3) A counter-intuitive finding (university term by Recruitment) is probably an artifact of previous penitentiary experience, and (4) The university program does foster pro-social role development, thus providing support for the "some things work" position.

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