For the second consecutive year, the UNESCO Chair in Applied Research for Education in Prison awarded the UNESCO Chair Prize to recognize the work of exceptional educators in prison and highlight the outstanding work that is carried out every day in federal penitentiaries in Quebec and provincial detention centres. The selection criteria for this prize were as follows: 




  • Is the project innovative or already in place in prisons?
  • The realism and relevance of the project for students in prisons,
  • The possibility of adapting the project to respond to different clientele in prisons,
  • The direct impact on the educational pathway of the student,
  • The knowledge, skills or abilities acquired during the project that become lifelong tools.

At a provincial level, Ms. Line Gagné, a teacher at the Percé Detention Centre, was awarded the prize for a movie review project she undertook with detainees. Her approach was original in the way that the movie reviews submitted had to include personal reflection on a specific subject matter: resilience, for example. The project improved French language skills via interesting subject matter (movies) and also paved the way for a psychological journey that goes much further than critique and requires an introspective thought process.

At a federal level, the prize was awarded to Ms. Line Bordage, a teacher at Port-Cartier Institution, for her project entitled “Healthy living.” This project raised awareness among detainees of the benefits of regular physical activity through running and a series of training programs adapted to all fitness levels. The aim was to also create ownership and accountability in terms of overall health and hygiene and boost detainees’ self-esteem, respect for others, mutual assistance and co-operation.

The UNESCO Chair committee would like to congratulate this year’s prize winners and every teacher who submitted a project for consideration for their commitment to education in prisons. The UNESCO Chair team would also like to thank Mr. Richard Coulombe and Ms. Nathalie Denis, the jury members, for their valuable contribution. Without their help, the event would not have been possible.

Line Bordage
Second languages teacher (English/French) at Port-Cartier Institution

It’s always wonderful to see the work we do recognized. When we realize that recognition goes beyond borders, there’s a feeling of pride and accomplishment.

I’m passionate about running and I’ve always fervently promoted a healthy lifestyle so I was concerned about the lack of physical activity caused by incarceration. I’ve spent 13 years teaching at a maximum-security institution and this project was very dear to me, even though I was aware of the challenges within a rigid and safe framework.

However, given the undeniable physical and psychological benefits of physical activity, it was relatively easy to promote the program. Stress management, uplifted mood, a boosted immune system and increased self-esteem are just a few of the positive effects that were used to promote the idea of a fitness overhaul and thus convince management of the relevance of the program in a teaching setting.

The end-of-course outdoor activity allowed the students to surpass themselves and to put their new skills into practice. After only eight weeks of intensive training, each student was able to finish a 10 km run at their own pace. The 10 km event was worthy of a major sporting event and there was a feeling of immense pride and recognition. The “Health and Fitness Challenge” was an unforgettable experience for everyone involved, both physically and psychologically. That day was all about encouragement, pushing yourself as far as you can, teamwork and also a brief feeling of freedom… Thank you so much!

This course was much more than a Secondary V credit. This physical activity program in a prison setting gave detainees tools they’ll need for social reintegration and for basic human fulfillment: self-esteem, consideration and respect.

Line Gagné
Teacher, Percé detention centre (Quebec)

Initially, the aim was to support French workshops, but I had the opportunity to create a separate course. Students learned to develop their analytical and critical skills, which often trigger a surprising thought process. I work in a detention centre for sex offenders so I thought that this course could lead the students to reflect on their crimes. All detainees at Percé detention centre also have therapy sessions.

I chose a theme for each movie and invited students to work on the theme. The students had to integrate the chosen theme into their review, which prompted them to reflect on their experience and their crime. I chose many different themes: from communication and resilience to morals and family.

There is a such a wide range of films out there so there were endless choices. The sheer range of movies allows students to expand their culture, open up to the world and realize that their reality is shared by many others across the world. These adult students learned in a flexible framework and I encouraged active participation.

The correction process was drafted according to the Quebec Department of Education standards, so it may vary from one location to another. I concentrated on past experiences and art-house movies. We recently watched Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” a movie that explores the importance of communication. “Lion,” “Chocolat” and “Life Is Beautiful” were also on this year’s movie list. I urge other educators to integrate movie review into their teaching and I wish them success, fruitful exchanges and opening of minds.