Alternative Solutions to Traditional Problems: Contextualizing the Kitchener John School Diversion Program
Mandur, Amrit Kaur
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This thesis is an exploratory study of the Kitchener John School Diversion Program. As a primarily community-based initiative, this program has been developed in response to a particular social problem, street prostitution. The primary focus of the program is to address the problem by targeting the clients of prostitutes. Using a contextual constructionist framework, eight qualitative, semi-structured interviews and three participant observation sessions were conducted to explore and understand how the John School works within the context of its objectives and mandate. Four research questions have been developed to achieve this and focus on (1) how program objectives are implemented within the operation of the diversion program, (2) how stakeholders problematize prostitution and its social actors, (3) what the social conditions and characteristics related to the social construction of prostitution are, as perceived by the social actors, and finally, (4) how the diversion program addresses the problem of prostitution. Through analysis of the data collected, key findings emerge that help to contextualize the diversion program within a broader understanding of its mandates and operations. Specifically, four objectives are identified as the primary goals of the school, being knowledge dissemination, accountability, diversion and change. There are notable discrepancies, however, in terms of how program staff interpret these objectives within the context of their program lectures and materials. Additionally, while strong themes and typifications emerge with respect to how prostitution and its social actors are problematized by the program staff, these themes and typifications have a tendency to conflict with one another when presented to the participants. For example, where prostitution is understood to be a social problem with a number of victims and perpetrators, the participants are frequently typified simultaneously as both victim and villain. In light of these discrepancies, however, it appears that the intended objectives and the actual operation of the diversion program both work towards the same, ultimate goal: change.