Considering new approaches to rehabilitation and correctional reform

May 14, 2019 | Society

From May 7 to 9, the Biennial Alberta Criminal Justice Symposium ignited discussions through a variety of speakers and workshops to explore current best practices and opportunities for improvement in Canada and the international community.

One of the highlights of the symposium, presented by MacEwan University in partnership with the Edmonton John Howard Society, was the introduction of the city’s newly sworn-in chief of police, Dale McFee, who was among the keynote speakers at the event.

The symposium examined six key themes: mental health, addictions and diversion; prison and correctional reform; multiculturalism and diversity; harm reduction; youth and gangs; and restorative justice/truth and reconciliation.

“This conference was a great way for us at MacEwan to facilitate really important conversations between academics, practitioners and policy makers,” says Dr. Amanda Nelund, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology. “And our students were key parts of those conversations.”

Students present their research


Sociology students Delphine Brown, Danielle Schmidt, Kelsey Friesen and Jamie Perrott (left to right).

During the three-day symposium, four MacEwan sociology students presented their research on topics related to the criminal justice system.

“All of our student presenters did a fantastic job outlining their various research projects and results and were then able to have great discussions with audience members about the implications of their research for practice,” says Amanda.

Here’s what our students were talking about:

  • Kelsey Friesen’s research is focused on sexual violence at post-secondary institutions. She says that while sexual violence has always been present in these institutions, it is only recently that sexual violence, along with its impacts, have received closer attention.

  • Delphine Brown presented a paper that explores the relationship between disgust and anger, and responses to sex offenders. Her findings indicate that disgusted reactions to sex offenders tend to drive legislation such as memorial and registration laws, whereas angry reactions tend to drive vigilante responses.

  • Danielle Schmidt’s research examines recidivism (relapsing in criminal activity) as one of the primary difficulties faced by offenders exiting the correctional system. High rates of recidivism contribute to offenders becoming entrenched in the correctional system.

  • Jamie Perrott’s presentation looked at cases of individuals who are found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. While many of these individuals will eventually be granted a conditional discharge, little is known about how they are monitored in a community setting.


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