From Jails to Healing Lodges: Evaluating the Impact of Correctional Facilities on Offender Adaptation
Hart-Mitchell, Regan D., Pfeifer, Jeffrey E., Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services
The purpose of the present study is to compare three types of correctional facilities within the province of Saskatchewan (i.e., Provincial Jails, Community Training Residences, and the Aboriginal Spiritual Healing Lodge) in terms of their specific impact on offender's perceptions and level of adaptation. Specifically, offenders residing in the three types of facilities were asked to participate in a structured interview that addressed six basic factors related to positive adaptation: environment, sense of community, cultural awareness, educational/vocational training, spirituality, and psychological impact. It was hypothesized that offenders housed in the Healing Lodge, where the focus is on traditional Aboriginal cultural and spiritual teachings, should report the most positive experiences. In addition, it was hypothesized that both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders would perceive the Provincial Jail to be the least positive with regard to aiding in successful adaptation. As hypothesized, results indicate that the Healing Lodge and the Community Training Residences are perceived as being significantly more positive than Provincial Jail on a number of dimensions related to positive environmental adaptation. The implications of these findings are discussed with regard to their relationship to the development of more effective correctional environments.
Researchers have suggested that prolonged exposure to traditional control-limiting correctional environments may result in adverse physical and psychological reactions in individuals, especially with their ability to successfully adapt (see e.g., Haney, Banks, & Zimbardo, 1973; Haney & Zimbardo, 1998). It has been suggested that this adverse impact may be due to the fact that administrators and staff within traditional correctional environments typically focus on keeping offenders in custody, maintaining order, control, and discipline (Toch, 1977). Given this focus, other goals such as providing rehabilitative programming, counselling, and health care are often allocated to a secondary position when staff members are faced with security issues (Haney & Zimbardo, 1998). Subsequently, it may be argued that, within the confines of a traditional correctional environment, the special needs of individual offenders are often secondary to the main goal of maintaining safety and security.
In addition to the above, it has been suggested that the level of behavioural adaptation and degree of assimilation experienced by offenders is often dependent upon the type of correctional environment in which they are placed (Schmid & Jones, 1993). Zamble and Porporino (1988), for example, argue that the ability to successfully adapt and assimilate may result in more positive outcomes for offenders, and that this ability may be heavily influenced by the type of correctional environment the offender resides in. This idea is evidenced by Pugh (1994, p. 985) who suggests that, "[i]t may be that correctional systems which provide incentives and opportunities for offenders to earn release and other privileges work best toward enhancing successful adaptation both in and out of prison".
Clearly, each correctional facility provides a unique experience based on interactions between offenders and staff, interactions among offenders, and the physical properties of the facility. Given the above, it may be argued that this unique atmosphere may have a considerable influence on the perceptions and experiences of the offenders residing there. Further, it may be suggested that the underlying group dynamics within each facility are directly related to whether this atmosphere exerts a positive or negative influence on each offender's experience of incarceration (Achtenberg, 2000).
The above research is particularly noteworthy given the recent Canadian correctional legislation embracing the principle of utilizing the least restrictive measures of confinement for reasons of fairness, practicality, and economy (Luciani, 2001). This legislation has led to the development and implementation of a wide range of alternative correctional environments in Canada. The Saskatchewan provincial correctional system provides a fertile opportunity to examine the effectiveness of various correctional environments on offender adaptation given that it employs three different types of facilities (Saskatchewan Justice, 2001). The first and most commonly employed type of facility are the Provincial Jails. This type of facility includes all of the aspects of a traditional, control-limited prison environment. The environment is typically more controlling of offenders, and the model of justice followed within this setting is more punitive in nature. Like traditional correctional environments, Provincial Jails are organised according to a fixed regime that focuses predominantly around issues of security maintenance (Haney & Zimbardo, 1998).
The second type of correctional facility currently provided by the Saskatchewan Department of Corrections and Public Safety are the Community Training Residences, where low to moderate risk offenders may be housed. A Community Training Residence allows offenders to pursue activities that address their needs through work, education, training or specialized treatment in a community-based setting. With an emphasis on more community-based models of restorative justice, the Community Training Residence provides offenders with both increased decision-making ability as well as increased levels of community re-integration.
Finally, the Saskatchewan Department of Corrections and Public Safety currently maintains a contract with the Prince Albert Grand Council for the operation of a Spiritual Healing Lodge that houses up to 20 provincially sentenced male offenders as well as 5 federally sentenced male offenders. The focus of the Healing Lodge program is on traditional Aboriginal spirituality and cultural practices. Offenders in this program are classified as low risk and are referred to as "relatives". Within the facility, emphasis is placed on spiritual and emotional healing and rehabilitation. It has been suggested that the Healing Lodge offers a more restorative approach to justice and also provides offenders with a more positive approach to decision making and community re-integration (O'Byrne, 2002; Prairie Research Associates, 2001). One important difference between a Community Training Residence and the Healing Lodge is found in the emphasis on different aspects of rehabilitation--while the Community Training Residence tends to focus on employability, the Healing Lodge tends to focus on Aboriginal culture and spirituality. The Healing Lodge facility is staffed primarily by persons of Aboriginal descent, further promoting the ideals of cultural sensitivity and culturally-relevant programming for Aboriginal offenders.
Although there have been very few studies conducted on specific aspects of the Healing Lodge as a correctional facility, there seems to be the notion that "something is working" within this environment. Also, although there has been some comparison of different types of correctional facilities elsewhere (Yeboah, 2000), there has been a lack of research in this area within a Canadian context. As such, the primary purpose of this research is to investigate and document whether the experiences of adult male offenders residing at the Prince Albert Healing Lodge are significantly different from offenders housed in Provincial Jails or Community Training Residences. Specifically, it …
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Publication information: Article title: From Jails to Healing Lodges: Evaluating the Impact of Correctional Facilities on Offender Adaptation. Contributors: Hart-Mitchell, Regan D. - Author, Pfeifer, Jeffrey E. - Author. Journal title: Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services. Volume: 1. Issue: 2 Publication date: June 2003. Page number: 95. © 2006 Meritus Solutions, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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