National Hub

Walls to Bridges began in 2011 as a partnership between Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVIW) in Kitchener, Ontario and the Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU). Thanks to the generous support of the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, the national W2B hub is located in the Faculty of Social Work at WLU.

Courses

Inspired by the U.S. Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, W2B courses are university or college based classes taught in jails, prison and community correctional settings. Students who are or have been incarcerated study together with students enrolled in university/college programs.  All students who successfully complete the course receive a university/college credit. An important principle of 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. To date, there have been 24 such courses offered in Canada.

Facilitator Trainings

We provide an annual five-day intensive facilitator training for educators wishing to learn the W2B pedagogical model and establish their own universities or colleges partnerships with local correctional settings. Trainings take place predominately at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario. Participants engage in dialogue and experiential activities designed to learn the W2B pedagogy, including ‘facilitating’ rather than lecturing, engaging in circle processes, and creating an equalitarian classroom climate. Facilitators of the trainings are women incarcerated at Grand Valley, formerly incarcerated people, other collective members and W2B staff. The next Instructor Training is June 8- 12, 2016. For further information about our Instructor Training please contact wallstobridges@wlu.ca.

The Walls to Bridges Collective at Grand Valley Institution for Women

The central responsibility of the collective at GVI is to design and facilitate the annual Facilitator Training. The collective also supports W2B classes at GVI and facilitates workshops about criminalization, gender, education, employment and social justice. The workshops we deliver in community settings are conducted in partnership with formerly incarcerated W2B alumni, living in the Greater Toronto Area.  The perspectives, voices and experiences of people with lived experience of incarceration are foregrounded in our workshops as we model the W2B pedagogy and facilitate innovative ways of engaging in dialogue about criminalization, imprisonment, stigma, education and employment. Participants have described our workshops as “transformative”, “enlightening”, “motivating” and “inspiring”!