“Lock ‘Em Up . . .” but Where’s the Key? Transformative Drama with Incarcerated Youth

Diane Conrad

Abstract


A research study doing applied theatre with youth at an Alberta, Canada young offender facility, asks: How can participatory drama contribute to the education of incarcerated youth to avoid future negative outcomes of their “at-risk” behaviours? This paper focuses on the social implications and the advocacy aspects of the research. It asks how spaces can be created within institutions such as prisons and schools for transformative processes to occur. Rather than the current “moral panic” that blames youth for social ills, rather than punishment and retribution – enacted against the majority of young Aboriginal inmates, strategies are needed that focus on personal and social development. Citing an example from the drama work, the paper proposes the need for appropriate programming for youth and more compassionate attitudes regarding their needs. Participatory drama, along with emerging restorative justice practices based in Indigenous cultures, offer hope for community-based solutions to creating more caring and compassionate processes of schooling and justice and a more caring and compassionate society overall.

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