Correctional Education: A Theoretical Analysis for Change

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Brazil, Amanda
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This thesis examines correctional education in Canadian federal prisons. A critical analysis of Social Learning Theory, which informs current correctional practices implemented by the Correctional Service of Canada, is conducted and identifies the problematic nature associated with the personal focus on criminality. A synthesis of criminological theories including Differential Association, Marxism, and critical educational frameworks, set the basis for arguing the need for changes in the current implementation of correctional education. These changes should include a more social focus, both in theory and practice. Crime and education are recognized as being commodities in a capitalist society and to challenge this, offenders need to critically examine their place in society through a dialogical and reflective educational opportunity. This opportunity should lead to a change in perspective and comprehension, resulting in personal and potential social transformation. This thesis calls for reformation due to the prescriptive nature of the current curriculum and recommends a more holistic approach to pedagogical style and course offerings within Canadian correctional education classrooms. An argument will be made that offering offenders simple adult basic education and employability skills in the areas of cleaning and maintenance are only preserving the socio-economic hierarchy and maintaining the status quo; not helping offenders become autonomous, empowered, and active citizens. This thesis will compare the technical rational approach to correctional education to the approach offered in the Irish prison service, where education is inarguably more holistic and liberal. Critical adult educators such as Paulo Freire, Jack Mezirow, and Michael Collins advocate this critical approach and their contributions to the field are examined. An example of practical critical pedagogy, which occurred in Long Kesh prison in Northern Ireland, will demonstrate the authenticity of education for social action and active citizenship. In addition, examples from the field of correctional education will reveal how critical education can be implemented in institutional classrooms while recognizing that barriers to this do exist.
Long Kesh (Prison) , Correctional Service Canada , Social learning , Prisoners