YOUCAN Inside the Walls Program
The Inside the Walls program is delivered in the medium security prison setting at Collins Bay Institution in Kingston (ON). The program aims to create positive change in attitudes towards violence and to empower participants to create and maintain positive community and family relationships. This is achieved by providing healthy alternatives for dealing with conflict, through a series of hands-on trainings in conflict resolution. This YOUCAN Peacebuilders training consists of eight different modules, namely Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution, Negotiation, Peer Helping, Mediation, Facilitation, Dialogue, Peace Circles and Taking Action. The program is conducted three days per week.
Program participant groups fall within three main demographics: those who are 18-26 years old; those 27 years old and above; and Long-Term Offenders (Lifers/Indeterminate Sentences). In groups of about 15 participants, program facilitators work together with the inmates to create a safe space where inmates can share their experiences in circle dialogue sessions. The idea is to encourage inmates to recognize their individual value system, while concurrently recognizing any potential for conflict with another person and that person’s values. This is achieved by actively engaging each inmate to participate in group dialogue sessions, role-plays and related conflict resolution activities. These activities are designed to be reflective of the realities of incarcerated males during their period of incarceration. Further to delivering skills in conflict resolution, the program also supports inmates in their efforts to “Take Action” in their lives. This involves action planning around potential conflicts that may arise upon release back into the community, such as barriers to employment, housing and personal relationships. Each group is unique and has its own dynamics; the facilitators tailor the training to the particular needs and demographics of each group.
The training for this program is 5 weeks and after full completion of all eight YOUCAN Peacebuilder Modules, inmates receive a personalized performance letter, a certificate of each module completed and a certificate from St Paul University worth three credits towards a Bachelors Degree.
The YOUCAN Inside the Walls program is a great alternative to address the correctional needs of inmates who do not meet the criteria prescribed for mandatory correctional programming. It also comes at a time when there has been an identified need to provide programming for Long-Term Offenders inside federal institutions. The program is a leading edge approach to help address conflict inside the prison, occurring between the inmates themselves and between inmates and Correctional Officers. This training gives inmates the skills to carefully think through any potential conflict, by using cognitive recognition skills to respond healthily and positively to most conflict situations and helps them to incorporate conflict resolution skills into their lives as well as their relationships.
In partnership with YOUCAN, Prof. Katherine Kelly of Carleton University is conducting a 5-year evaluation of the Inside the Walls program at Collins Bay Institution. The evaluation employs a control group to examine changes in pre- and post-program measures of attitudinal and behavioural change among participants, as well as longer-term impacts (≥ 6 months post-program). Preliminary results show significantly greater decrease in pro-violence attitudes among program participants, a high incidence of post-program use of new conflict resolution skills, as well as fewer charges post-training.