Participatory action research with ex-prisoners: Using Photovoice and one woman’s story told through poetry

This paper focusses on the story of Deer (not her real name), a participant in my Photovoice project with 12 ex-prisoners in South Australia.

People who have been to prison rarely have the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words. In particular, women ex-prisoners tend to remain silent about their experiences because of the shame and stigma associated with the label ‘criminal’. This stigma remains for years after their return to the community even when they have led successful lives in terms of work, study and relationships.

Deer was one of nine women who, armed with a camera, went out into the streets to take photographs to help her tell her story. You can find out more about the theory underpinning the method in my paper titled Picturing Creative Approaches to Social Work Research. Like most participants, Deer used metaphor and a sense of humour to tell her story in creative, honest and sometimes very emotional ways. What made her contribution stand out was her decision to write a poem to accompany her story and images.

This paper is special for two reasons. It includes Deer’s poem in full, and in the spirit of participatory action research, Deer and I wrote it together. Her voice is amplified in this process as she explains her family history, what led her to spend time in prison and her reflections on the long-term effects a custodial sentence can have on women.

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We invite you to learn more about this experience by reading our article HERE. Free 30-day access is available for this article beginning 21 August, 2017.

After you’ve had a chance to read this piece, please share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences with our community in the comments below so we can continue this discussion!


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