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Reading, writing, and prison education reform? The tricky and political process of establishing college programs for prisoners: perspectives from program developers

Rebecca Sanford (Department of Communication, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey, USA)
Johanna E. Foster (Sociology Program, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey, USA)

Equal Opportunities International

ISSN: 0261-0159

Article publication date: 1 October 2006

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Abstract

Purpose

Development of prison postsecondary education and training programs since the elimination of Pell Grants to inmates has been constructed through smaller‐scale educators and institutions working toward more democratic access to higher education. The authors of this article work as educators and program developers in two such programs in women's correctional facilities and use these programs as exemplars to describe the necessary components and potential pitfalls in developing and implementing college‐in‐prison and vocational‐training‐in‐prison. The purpose of this paper is to describe the experiences and challenges faced by the authors, first as educators and then as program developers, as they attempted to expand the impact of educational opportunity across a larger segment of the US incarcerated population in the prisons where they teach.

Design/methodology/approach

This article steps away from day‐to‐day classroom descriptions and focuses on the larger picture of the conditions necessary to succeed in implementation of novel and socially vital programs to currently incarcerated women in the USA.

Findings

The benefits of working toward democratizing access to postsecondary education for incarcerated students cannot be overstated for those of interested in protecting fundamental human rights. Policy changes, alliances with Departments of Corrections and matriculating institutions, and educators willing to work toward building their own postsecondary programs are vital components of what must become a more central piece of continued educational justice movements in the USA and elsewhere.

Originality/value

The paper offers suggestions for program execution and critically examines obstacles that need to be managed during planning and achievement of program goals.

Keywords

Citation

Sanford, R. and Foster, J.E. (2006), "Reading, writing, and prison education reform? The tricky and political process of establishing college programs for prisoners: perspectives from program developers", Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 25 No. 7, pp. 599-610. https://doi.org/10.1108/02610150610714411

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited