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Thursday, June 14, 2012

How do we get kids to stay out of jail? The result is In and Out, a graphic novel.

With a recidivism rate for youth in B.C. jails at 76 per cent, and an average reading ability at the Grade 4 level, officials at the University of Victoria's Centre for Youth and Society thought a new approach was needed.

So masters student Kate Creedon, who works as a counsellor at the Victoria Youth Custody Centre, got a group of young inmates to write a graphic novel about their experiences.

"I asked them: 'How do we get kids to stay out of jail? What do you wish you'd known when you first came here?'" said Ms. Creedon of the creative challenge she threw at them.

The result is In and Out, a graphic novel illustrated by Meghan Bell, a professional artist outside the system, based on a story line developed by the small group of 16-to-19-year-old inmates.

It follows the experiences of a young man who fights to get his life on the right track, while his brother and friends are trying to pull him back into a continued life of crime.

The goal of the project, Ms. Creedon said, was to both encourage literacy and find a way for repeat offenders to get across to their peers that there is a way to get out and stay out.