College of New Caledonia Students Benefit from Inside-Out Course on Restorative Justice

CNC instructor Marc Sinclair has never seen such an active and engaged class, making it a next-level experience for him as an instructor. Marc has brought together college students with incarcerated students in CNC’s first-ever Inside-Out class during the spring term… focusing on building connections by examining restorative justice.

Inside-Out is a “prison-exchange program” founded in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Since its inception in 1997, the program has connected learners in different settings across the continent including in BC.

“Preparing for the delivery of this course took three years – to receive the training, build rapport with correctional facilities, and develop the course” explained Marc, who teaches sociology, criminology, and women’s studies courses in CNC’s university studies program. “The course paired up college students with students at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre, which had the capacity to support this program for this term.”

Building connection through restorative justice

Marc’s focus for the course involved restorative justice, a key focus of Indigenous justice prior to colonial court systems. Of the 22 students who signed up for Marc’s inaugural Inside-Out, nine were “inside” students at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre linked via videoconference to 13 “outside” students at CNC’s Prince George Campus.

Marc’s course asked students: what is justice? They then compared what is called ‘the traditional system of retributive justice’ with a restorative justice model. One of the key differences between these systems is the former focuses on the breaking of a rule or law, whereas the latter focuses on repairing harm committed to relationships.

The class discussed the role of victims in each system of justice, and thinking about the ends that each system of justice aims to achieve. Students also read “Returning to the Teachings” by Rupert Ross, an Indigenous-authored text that provided further insight.

Learning magic comes to life

“Every single class, I had to cut-off discussion because we ran out of time,” Marc added. “Students felt connected to each other, and everyone was really more willing to share their ideas. Some students said it was a space where everyone was equal and the barrier between inside and outside students was removed. I really feel like students knew we were all actually listening, and they were actually being heard.”

Marc hopes to offer additional Inside-Out courses for CNC students and those in custody. Marc is currently having conversations with Instructors in other disciplines, such as English to start up Inside-Out courses.

Next-level learning

For Marc as an instructor, the program has offered an innovative way to provide education, connection, and hope.

“I love teaching but Inside-Out courses are the next level type of rewarding. My days are brightened to help instill confidence in students that maybe never dreamed of taking a college course,” Marc said.

“By the end of the course, I’m confident that students will have expanded their notions of justice and, at the very least, understand that there are different justice options available. The curriculum for the course couldn’t get much better for me, but it’s the emergent hidden curriculum of changing perceptions, community, and connection; that is the real magic that happened.”

Original article from College of New Caledonia