Embargo Period


Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Dr. Kelly Teamey


In the United States, when we talk about addiction and incarceration, what are the stories that are usually told and from whose perspective? This project assembled a multi-method approach incorporating photovoice and a semi-participatory action research (PAR) methodology to establish community connections and facilitate healing through personal storytelling and listening. Working with Phoenix Rise House in Bellows Falls, VT, a transitional house for (12) men who are formerly incarcerated and/or recovering addicts, this research addresses the question: How can internalized stigma, of felons and addicts, be reduced with photo storytelling? Underpinning the semi-PAR methodological approach is a theoretical framework incorporating aspects from critical theory, radical humanism, and Freire’s praxis of critical consciousness, aiming to do the following: amplify the voices that tend to be ignored, encourage greater participation in the healing process, and address power-relations and active citizenship. This project primarily involved a grounded theory analysis to unearth key themes of that emerged through the research process using a focus group, group circle sessions, one-on-one interviews, a survey, and my personal reflective journals. The findings and conclusions of this study demonstrate the complexity of and around stigma and how it affects everyone from individuals to the larger community. Themes that emerged from the findings include systemic challenges, identity, healing, relationships, and humanizing. While the study focused on the reduction of internalized stigma, the data also offered insights into the connections between identity, relationships, and self-worth. I suggest that future research incorporate different demographics and include a final community exhibit to showcase participants’ work. All too often, addicts and felons are seen through a single lens, but in reality, they too are much more complicated. To truly understand their situations, one must look at them holistically.

Keywords: Addiction, incarceration, stigma, storytelling, circle processes, photovoice, healing, identity


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