Okanagan College professors pen in-depth book on history of Canadian corrections

By College Relations | October 22, 2021

Melissa Munn and Chris Clarkson
Melissa Munn and Chris Clarkson

Discourse about the lived experiences of those behind bars is about to break free across the country, with a special virtual book launch event next week.

Okanagan College Sociology Professor Melissa Munn and History Professor Chris Clarkson joined forces to co-author Disruptive Prisoners: Resistance, Reform and the New Deal, published this fall by University of Toronto Press.

The book is a collective biography that reconstitutes the histories of Canada’s federal prison system in the mid-20th century – constructed after years of extensive research of archives, penal press material and government document reviews and interviews with various stakeholders.

A virtual book launch is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 27, when Munn and Clarkson will discuss the evidence that these prisoners were active agents of change who advocated for and resisted the initiatives that were part of Canada’s “new deal for corrections.”

The pair come from different academic disciplines, so collaborating on the project was a learning process that achieved amazing results.

“Working with a historian challenged me to learn new approaches to research and I really loved that,” Munn said. “It forced me to look at things from a new angle and also become more certain with my disciplinary expertise.”

Munn currently runs the Penal Press website and has been interested in preserving these histories for quite some time. It was her passion to make sure these types of histories survive that hooked Clarkson to join in the efforts.

“I’ve always been interested in the historical experiences of the residents of institutions like orphanages, asylums or old age homes, but most of those histories are written using documents produced by administrators and you rarely even get the tiniest glimpse into the perspectives of the residents,” explains Clarkson. “The prisoners’ newspapers offer an exciting new window on life within prisons and allowed us to look into the operation of prisons in a way that hasn’t been possible in the study of other institutions.”

First-hand prisoner accounts provide an engaging glimpse behind the bars of Canada’s federal prison system. A question-and-answer period will follow the presentation.

The event is being hosted by the Olde Gaol Museum, a historic jail built in 1863 that operated for 140 years in Lindsay, Ont. In 1957, a group of citizens began collecting, preserving and sharing the heritage of Lindsay and surrounding townships, leading to the establishment of the Victoria County Historical Society. Before its closure in 2003, the society redeveloped the jail into a museum.

The virtual event is free and will take place Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Zoom. Registration is required online: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Sspgyq6bSYyHXG3Y5xJ_jQ 

Copies of Disruptive Prisoners can be ordered online: https://utorontopress.com/9781487525910/disruptive-prisoners/

Tags: Arts University Studies, Kelowna, Vernon, Revelstoke Centre, Salmon Arm, Penticton, Inside OC, 2021 Year in review



Sign up for weekly stories


Communications student standing outside the Centre for Learning building at the Kelowna campus
Meet Ruth Gabriela Melo Flores

April 4, 2023

Q: What's your name? A: Ruth Gabriela Melo Flores Q: What's your hometown? A: Quito – Ecuador – South America Q: How did you end up at Okanagan College? A: Well, I studied for a bachelor's degree in Law in Ecuador. Then, I worked for a while and got my Master's degree in Government and Culture of Organizations at the University of Pamplona.  When I returned to my country, professional opportunities arose for me. I mean, a Master's degree improved my career. Spain helped me develop ...

Animation student
Artistic students design future careers in animation

June 7, 2022

Grads of Okanagan College’s Animation Diploma program are finding their skills have never been in higher demand. First- and second-year students showed samples of their artwork and demo reels to industry partners at OC’s annual Animation Industry Night on May 17. “Lots of the work was very professional,” says James Wood, Chair of Okanagan College’s Animation Department. “Our program is short, but intense. The instructors make sure the students have a realistic understanding of what they need do to succeed in a competitive and demanding wo...

JAMK campus
OC Business students embrace international study again

May 30, 2022

Business students from Okanagan College are once again able to travel to Jyväskylä, Finland to experience an international summer school at the JAMK University of Applied Sciences.  Finland’s education system is widely regarded as one of the best in the world.  OC Business Professor Blair Baldwin, who has taught Services Design at JAMK for several summers, says working in Finland has helped him innovate and create new teaching methodologies. “JAMK employs experiential learning across its curriculum,” he says. “They stress critical thinkin...

Enactus 2022
Enactus Okanagan College tops the field, sets sights on national championships

May 27, 2022

Okanagan College students will once again be competing for the Canadian title after qualifying for the Enactus National Exposition with a first-place finish in their league during the semi-final round. Enactus teams at post-secondary institutions across Canada competed virtually earlier this month, and Okanagan College scooped up top position in the TD Entrepreneurship Challenge, and runner-up in the Scotiabank Climate Action Challenge for the Unusually Good Food Co. project. It also included national runner-up in Shaw and RBC accelerators...