Walls to Bridges (W2B) is an innovative educational program that brings together incarcerated (“Inside”) and non-incarcerated (“Outside”) students to study university-level courses in jails and prisons across Canada. The National Hub for the program is based out of the Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work, in partnership with Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener. Courses are offered through the Faculty of Social Work and the Faculty of Arts.
Experiential learning is foundational to the W2B teaching and learning process. An important principle of all W2B courses is that students from outside the correctional system are not ‘mentoring’ or ‘helping’ or ‘working with’ incarcerated/criminalized students: all participants in the class are peers, learning the class content together through innovative, experiential and dialogical processes. Self-reflexivity is a key component of W2B classes.
By providing access to education for incarcerated peoples and through collaborative scholarly inquiry with university-based students, Walls to Bridges classes offer opportunities to understand the complexities of criminalization and punishment through lived experiences and intersectional analyses. This is a transformational educational experience which draws upon lived experience as a source of theorizing as well as challenges the artificial boundaries between people experiencing imprisonment and those who are not.
The Walls to Bridges staff, students, and instructors are tremendously grateful for the support extended so generously to the program, without which this impactful work would not be possible.
We want to thank and recognize the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation – it was their financial backing that enabled W2B to flourish locally and to expand our work to other parts of Canada.
“We all have differences in us. That’s just the way we are made up – our life experiences, our genetic make-up, culture, religion, sex – all the isms you might want to think of, we’re all different. This type of learning embraces those differences. It doesn’t highlight them and it doesn’t make them an ugly thing. It just makes them something that we have and something that we bring.”
– Chica (Inside Student)
"I learned a lot about myself. I learned about how important it is to be present. I learned to trust my own voice and that it’s okay to express my voice, I learned about all kinds of assumptions that I carry and how that inevitably will impact how I interact with the world, and how the world interacts with me."
– Racheal (Outside Student)
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