Schooling behind bars: an analysis of the therapeutic community model and how it shapes education for incarcerated youth

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University of New Brunswick


This research takes a post structuralist approach to the analysis of The Therapeutic Community Model (TCM), a policy document that guides all procedures at a youth correctional facility in Canada where I was employed as a correctional officer. It shows how power operates at the level of policy. Through a Foucauldian discourse analysis I challenge the notion that policy making is a rational process based on evidence or truth. I show how the language of the TCM constructs youth as deviant, and how this impacts youth subjectivity and youth education in a prison setting. My research is guided by Foucault's (1975) book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison and his idea of social control in the classification, detection and treatment of citizens in conflict with the law. The contradictions, inconsistencies and false sense of liberty apparent in the language of the TCM show that the model needs to be revisited in order for incarcerated youth to benefit from schooling behind bars.