Canada really is leading the way on clever, civic minded uses of graphic novels today. The rate of recidivism for youth offending in jails in British Columbia runs around 76 percent and as an attempt to combat this, Kate Creedon, a Master's Student who works at the Victoria Youth Custody Centre was tasked to put a group of inmates together to think, and write, about what they wished they'd known before offending.
Talking to the Globe and Mail about the creative process, Creedon said 'We met … we brainstormed about ideas. They came up with the dialogue. They reviewed the graphics and made changes…it was intense and during the process I couldn't tell if they liked it or not."
The end result, In and Out is the story of two brothers who are put on probation for breaking curfew. It follows them through the process, teaching offenders about the system as well as telling a story that takes in teen pregnancy, an armed robbery and death. Which all sounds a little overblown until you remember the book's creative team are literally writing what they know.
Whilst the process was at times rocky, both Creedon and the offenders were impressed by the offender's hard work, whilst in turn the offenders themselves were impressed by Creedon and her superiors' willingness to listen to them. This positive environment has nothing but benefits, as Anne Marshall of the Centre for Youth and Society explained to the Times Colonist. "This project is important because these youth know what they need to transition successfully. While they're getting the message to other youth, they're building their own literacy skills,"
The book, illustrated by Meghan Bell and written by Kristian, Shymon, Lorne, Brandon, Devon and Mark is released this week.