The Fall of 2011 saw the launch of Canada’s first two Inside-Out courses, across the country from each other. In British Columbia, Jane Miller and Hollis Johnson taught a Kwantlen Polytechnic University interdisciplinary course on “Othering” at a medium-security men’s facility. Meanwhile, Shoshana Pollack, one of three professors from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Faculty of Social Work to have been trained so far, taught a course on Diversity, Marginalization and Oppression at Grand Valley Institution, a women’s prison in Kitchener, Ontario. The Wilfrid Laurier/Grand Valley collaboration has spawned not only the promise of ongoing course offerings, but also the first Canadian Think Tank, which is also the first think tank to be held in a women’s prison.
Other pilots are in the early stages across Ontario, and presentations – for faculty from a dozen universities, at the annual meeting of advocacy group, The Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada, and the Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning – are leading to expressions of interest from regions as far-flung as the Yukon Territories and Nova Scotia. Plans are being forged for a customized Canadian training, one that will reflect the distinct social, cultural, institutional and political realities that shape the Canadian criminal justice landscape. Canada is facing an unprecedented rise in the rate of incarceration, and one important focus for us is on the experiences and perspectives of Aboriginal men and women, who are vastly over-represented in the Canadian correctional system.
Additionally, Inside-Out has trained (or will soon train) individuals from Ireland, Norway, Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa. Inside-Out instructor Steven Shankman has delivered presentations on Inside-Out to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) audiences in Kazakhstan and Russia. Shankman (University of Oregon/Oregon State Penitentiary) holds one of 25 UNESCO chairs in intercultural and inter-religious dialogue around the world and is the only American chair. He is continuing to leverage his UNESCO role to increase awareness about Inside-Out and its highly successful model. Inside-Out instructors Martha Saxton, Kristin Bumiller and Breea Willingham have presented their own and their students’ work at international conferences in Poland, the UK, and Ireland. Catholic and Protestant peace and reconciliation workers from Northern Ireland have visited an Inside-Out course in Oregon taught by Shaul Cohen.
A subcommittee of Inside-Out’s Steering Committee is working to ensure that the emergence of Inside-Out in contexts beyond the U.S. is thoughtful and culturally sensitive. Pedagogically, politically, practically and ethically, we hope to see past the blind spots that can come when people export American programs to entirely distinct contexts. Collaborative exploration is our modus operandi in this regard.
THE INSIDE-OUT CENTER