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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Group work in an institution for young offenders : an analytical study of the introduction and development of group work services at the Young Offenders' Unit of Oakalla Prison Farm, 1951-1959. Montpellier, Alfred Louis

Abstract

Youthful offenders are usually persons who are struggling with severe social and emotional problems; who are either isolates or associate mainly with anti-social persons, and as a consequence, cut themselves off, and are cut off from persons who could assist them to identify with more normal social goals and values. This thesis is a descriptive analysis of a programme developed for such "clients", giving specific attention to the introduction of group work and related social work services at the Young Offenders' Unit, a correctional institution in British Columbia. The original leisure-time programme hoped to gain the interest and cooperation of youthful offenders; instead, they withdrew into their housing units. In response to this, a social group work service is provided, and counsellors (both men and women) are assigned to work directly in the housing units. The transitional aspects of such a programme, in a correctional setting, presents peculiar problems; therefore, descriptive detail is given in order to highlight two major shifts in focus: (1) The function of the counsellors; (2) The diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of activities, over and above their leisure-time value. The essential group work task of gaining the acceptance of delinquent youths is analyzed, and specific examples are given which illustrate how group activities of all kinds provide the tools whereby counsellors observe, study, and diagnose the interaction in each group and between groups. As a result, helpful roles emerge which make it possible for counsellors to assist the groups and their individual members towards socially acceptable behaviour. Because the youthful offender will eventually return to the community, the study points out how the delinquent is able to gain a growing trust in adults as he identifies with his counsellor, and how this furthers his eventual integration into society. The kinds of activities which are helpful to this end are illustrated. The study recognizes that segregation of youthful offenders in a separate building, and assigning counsellors to work directly with groups, helps the delinquent to substitute patterns of mature social relationships in the place of immature, anti-social patterns of relationship. But the traditional institution of concrete and stone, with steel bars and gates poses serious limitations, in that it perpetuates, arid sometimes re-inforces the youthful offender's emotional isolation from the community. The concept of a more 'open type' institution is presented, as one answer to this problem, facilitating the whole process in bridging the gap between the institution and the community, after-care, etc. The need for trained staff continues as an essential part of such a programme.

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