Issue 13.2 | Spring 2016 / Guest edited by Soniya Munshi and Craig Willse

More than Access: College Programs in Prison and Transforming Education

By working to serve individual students, do we suggest the correctness and justness of the institutions and systems that they find themselves in and that we support with our own work? Conversely, by working to address the manifest injustices in such a system, do we neglect the individual lives presently caught within it? I would argue that, at least in spirit, these are questions almost any teacher in any institution could ask about the work they do.
—Kirk Branch, Eyes on the Ought to Be[1]

In scholarly research, answers are only as good as the further questions they provoke, while for activists, answers are as good as the tactics they make possible.
—Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag[2]

In keeping with the spirit of the epigraphs offered here, this essay raises more questions than it provides answers. Raising questions without answers may be one peculiar provenance of academic inquiry, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore points out. Here answers are primarily the vehicle for further questioning, one temporary constellation of meaning in the broader field of “research.” For activists as well, answers are temporary and situational. But here Gilmore suggests that answers are the vehicle for tactical intervention, one temporary constellation of meaning in the broader field of “politics.” Yet what happens in situations where scholarly research and tactical action overlap? What happens when the roles of “academic” and “activist” are blurred in institutional settings where traditional systems of higher education meet their limit? Kirk Branch’s scholarly research on teaching literacy across educational institutions and systems helps us puzzle out how educators find themselves asking such questions when they work to create broader access to higher education.[3] Branch’s research raises additional questions for this essay: how do we imagine and institute the aims of higher education in systems that reveal the historical tensions or even contradictions between “scholarly inquiry” and “political practice”? What happens when providing education is perceived as a political practice, not merely by teaching scholarly research but also by instituting new systems of educational access? And how can we improve our tactics for providing educational access so that it leads more broadly to education justice?

This essay begins with one answer—college programs in prison—and backtracks through scholarship and activism to discern what questions and tactics brought us here.[4] The term “prison education” encompasses a wide variety of educational programming offered inside carceral systems. This can include curricula focused on Graduate Equivalency Diplomas (GED), English as a Second Language (ESL), vocational training, certificate programs, theological studies, accredited college coursework, and accredited degree granting programs (AA, BA, and beyond). Education programs in prisons have diverse aims and institutional structures, from informal offerings in creative writing and reading groups to degree-granting programs affiliated with accredited higher education institutions on the outside (including community colleges and four-year universities). In the later twentieth century, following the 1971 Attica uprising and demands from people inside and outside to provide greater access to education, education programs in prisons flourished. Many of these programs were developed with explicit political goals: educational access for those living on the inside was a social justice or human rights issue, and education programming was one tactic among others seeking redistributive education, economic, and racial justice goals (an equity model) linked to broader aims of prison reform or abolition (with social justice outcomes). Others were developed with explicit educational goals: educational access for those living on the inside was a moral or rehabilitative issue, and education programming was one tactic among others seeking intellectual, ethical, and social reform of individuals (an uplift model) linked to broader aims of reduced recidivism and greater public safety (with social security outcomes). Some programs repudiate the concept of goals altogether: educational access for those living on the inside should not be different from those living on the outside; therefore, education programming cannot be a tactic in the service of anything but “education” (an equality model) linked to the variegated aims of the sponsoring educational institution (with social mobility outcomes).

These goals often co-exist in a single program, sometimes producing conflicts among staff, volunteers, and students or even leading to contradictions that must be solved by changes in program structure or collaborative leadership. These conflicts may stem from commitments held within these programs, but additional sources of conflict have often been imposed externally by changing funding streams connecting higher education and incarceration. Low-income and disenfranchised students who are US citizens were given federal need-based financial support for higher education by the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, which created Federal Educational Opportunity Grants and low-interest loans through the National Defense Student Loan Program. This act was amended in 1972 to rename the above programs the National Direct Student Loan Program and the Supplementary Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) and to introduce a new Basic Educational Opportunity Grant linked to the SEOG, renamed in 1980 as the Pell Grant for Senator Claiborne Pell.[5] These grants initially provided access to higher education for low-income (and some middle-income) US students, although the funding stream still maintained an individual focus requiring each student to apply so that funds could be disbursed to institutions on a case-by-case basis. Incarcerated students were eligible for Pell Grants until 1994, when the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act restricted access to Pell Grants for incarcerated people. While incarcerated students comprised less than one percent of Pell Grant recipients and did not decrease the general pool of student aid, in 1994 Congress banned financial support for higher education inside prisons.[6] As a result, roughly 350 college programs in prison closed.[7] Programs that remain must often rely on eligibility-restrictive state and federal funding or on non-profit and philanthropic giving, each of which can impact the capacity of programs to set their own educational and political agendas.

The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act coincided with broader restrictions in access to higher education and expansions in mechanisms of policing and incarceration. During this closing decade of the twentieth century, the economic, political, and social reforms known as “neoliberalism” fundamentally restructured the relation between education and incarceration in the United States. Early formulations of neoliberal theory developed by Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman in the 1940s were slowly adopted by the United States during the late 1970s and 1980s, working to wed liberal ideals of freedom to neoclassical economics through a shift away from social collectivity and Keynesian government to radical individualism and macroeconomic strategies. Often referred to as privatization and deregulation, neoliberalism more accurately describes the shift from state-regulated redistribution “downward” (via taxation, social welfare, and entitlement programs) to semi-regulated market redistribution “upward” (via protections for capital and corporations).[8] David Harvey proposes four features of neoliberalization: 1) privatization and commodification; 2) financialization; 3) management and manipulation of crises; 4) state redistributions that “strip away the protective coverings that embedded liberalism allowed and occasionally nurtured.”[9] These features created “uneven geographic development”[10] and new surpluses in population and political power,[11] effects that led to the dismantling of public entitlements, such as education and welfare, and the construction of alternate versions of the social safety net: prisons. Economic and political commitments to prisons were on the rise while those targeting education waned.[12] From the 1980s onward, public education—including traditional institutions of higher education—became increasingly subject to economic reforms and evaluation on the grounds of efficiency rather than other measures of effectiveness, while incarceration seemed to promise neoliberalism a strangely efficient investment strategy for capitalizing on crises in populations and politics.

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, we are at a peculiar crossroads. Over the past twenty years, carceral institutions have increased public warehousing of citizen and non-citizen alike, while higher education institutions have struggled to maintain public access to affordable, high-quality degrees. Rates of incarceration skyrocket when they include the entire population administered through jails, state and federal prisons, and ICE detention centers as carceral networks with imbricated policing and punishment regimes.[13] All measurements of incarceration during this period foreground racial disproportionality, with statistics on the high percentage of Black and Latino men detained and incarcerated.[14] Women are also reported to be the fastest-growing incarcerated population.[15] These statistics rarely offer a breakdown on cis- and transgender patterns or analysis of how racialized gender or sexual discrimination structures placement within men’s or women’s prisons versus institutions of higher education.[16] Feminist, queer, and transgender activists point out the dire consequences for equitable access to higher education when K-12 schools discipline and displace students who appear gender- and sexually nonconforming, specifically young people of color, at higher rates, often resulting in their disproportionate entrance into juvenile jails. Recent attention to the disciplinary inequities in punishment for African American girls suggests that official race and sex statistics do not adequately account for intersectional processes of education and carceral tracking.[17] College programs in prison do continue to offer post-secondary education to people behind bars around the country, with more programs being developed through new partnerships between colleges, non-profits, and Departments of Correction. Increased attention to disparities in access to higher education from inside prisons has created greater attention to college programming in women’s prisons, although it remains hard to find statistics or studies focused on how gender and sexuality shape access to college within “sex” segregated institutions. Based on anecdotal evidence, feminist, queer, and trans anti-racisms are operating within the paradigms of “access” but are less visible to the tracking mechanisms used to evaluate the relevance and effectiveness of higher education programs in prison.

So what exactly does higher education in prison look like in the aftermath of 1994? And what is the role of college programming in prison during this new century, while public higher education more generally is under concerted attack? These tactical questions have emerged through conversations taking place within and among students and teachers in higher education programs in prisons across the United States, brought into focus at national symposia held yearly from 2010 to 2015.[18] Discussions at these conferences focused on key issues facing higher education programs in prison, including how to evaluate effectiveness, how to develop strategies for action, the problem of fundraising, and inter-institutional effectiveness. Questions about differential access based on race, gender, and sexuality appear within each of these categories. In recent years, increasing numbers of colleges and universities have begun to develop programs for incarcerated students, with varied levels of engagement in this national conversation and/or accountability to local organizing efforts by imprisoned and formerly imprisoned people. The question of “professionalization” lurks on the horizon as programs face the opportunities (and obstacles) presented by increasing support from sponsoring institutions and state actors. On the one hand, such support may foster broader access to higher education programs inside prisons and enable collaboration among educators and activists who see access to professionalized higher education as part of politicized education justice. On the other hand, such support may lack long-term commitment to the individual and collective self-determination of imprisoned and formerly imprisoned people and/or privilege short-term priorities related to recidivism and fiscal efficiency that do not foster education justice more broadly. New legislation returning Pell grant eligibility to specific groups of currently incarcerated students promises to shift the landscape once again. The return of Pell eligibility for incarcerated students would likely broaden and diversify educational access while mobilizing efforts to ensure educational equity and structural accountability.[19]

This essay focuses specifically on the aspirations and actions of higher education programs in prisons as they struggle for survival and success in the context of neoliberal reforms. Here I consider how providing increased access to higher education—specifically, access that crosses prison walls—can become a tactic in broader education justice efforts, as well as how we might create mechanisms or systems that contribute to broader education justice movements if and as this work becomes institutionalized within our current K-16 schema. This essay was first drafted in 2011 as I reflected on my own work with higher education programs in Washington prisons, where a state legislative ban on public funding for degree-granting higher education inside prisons poses particular problems with “professionalizing” education as an extension of campus access (or conversely an extension of Department of Corrections reform). This obstacle has enabled prisoner-led educational initiatives to lead in the absence of more robust state-sanctioned programs, with a non-profit culture organized to support them by facilitating institutional access to course credit and credentialed teachers. As of 2014, there are three such programs in my region: the University Beyond Bars (in a men’s prison close to Seattle), the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound (in a women’s prison close to Tacoma), and the Black Prisoners’ Caucus T.E.A.C.H. program (in a men’s prison remote from any urban center).[20] Each program was organized by incarcerated leaders working with volunteers from communities, colleges, and universities; each program has had to negotiate the fraught and increasingly fragile relationship between sustainability and accountability in the context of neoliberal reforms.[21] Within this context, each program has debated “professionalism” as both question and tactic, asking what (or whose) educational and political aims are served by incorporation into existing institutional frameworks.

These debates have informed my thinking here, even as my specific focus on the intersection of universities and prisons reflects my own preoccupations as tenured faculty at a flagship state university in the late stages of neoliberal restructuring. This essay contributes to broader debates by focusing specifically on neoliberal incorporations of education justice efforts and the impact of such uneven incorporations on higher education programs in prisons.[22] Working from frameworks and questions raised by the 2007 INCITE! collection The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, this essay asks how transformations of public and private funding, often linked to the professionalization of activism and the privatization of education, impact efforts to offer college programs behind bars.[23] My argument unfolds across four sections. I begin by situating the most recent era of restricted education and mass incarceration within broader genealogies of reform and containment. Practices of education and incarceration have long been used to assign value to specific populations and to determine who is eligible for reform and who is subject to punishment. In the later twentieth century, broader restructuring of the governmental apparatus decreased public access to educational entitlements while increasing state capacity to contain and manage surplus populations through incarceration. The next section explores critiques of higher education programs in prison as complicit with this broader restructuring of mass incarceration and limited educational access. These programs are sometimes accused of expanding state surveillance of incarcerated intellectuals and upholding restrictions on the definition and value of higher education. Section three takes up these critiques of higher education programs in prisons and asks whether such programs can be positioned to transform the carceral and educational systems of neoliberalism. This section briefly surveys higher education programs in prisons and outlines the obstacles and the opportunities for cross-sectoral and inter-institutional transformation they face. I close considering strategies for intersectional coalition-building that are emerging as part of broader movements for education, economic, and racial justice.

I. Prison as Education

Systems of incarceration have long been intertwined with systems of education. On the one hand, people caught up in systems of incarceration have historically been labeled in need of education. Here incarceration answers the question: what do you do with people who need to be educated to conform to the standards and expectations of their society? On the other hand, people caught up in systems of incarceration have historically been labeled uneducable. Here incarceration answers the question: what do you do with people who cannot be trained to conform to the standards and expectations of their society? This section takes up the contradictory historical discourses of incarceration as education to explore how neoliberalism poses “new” questions about education and incarceration and institutes restricted answers through specific systems of governmentalization and dehumanization. These systems have produced what Erica Meiners calls the “school to prison ‘nexus,’” a deepening interpenetration of systems of education and incarceration that transforms who counts as a deserving “human” and who must be counted among the undeserving mass of society’s debris.[24] This renewed redistribution of humanity, and the economic and social redistribution it entails, naturalizes the current transformation of systems of mass education into systems of mass incarceration, with civil subjectivity the horizon of political possibility for the elite and entitled few. Here I will explore in particular how college programs in prison relate to institutions of higher education. The aim is to change the questions these systems are designed to answer. Changing the questions asked—rather than modifying the tactics designed to answer them—enables us to see how the longstanding interdependence of prisons and education is repurposed to naturalize the recent transformations of neoliberalism. This is the kind of perspective shift Ruth Wilson Gilmore calls for in her study of California’s new prison economy, which enables us to “see how ‘prison’ is actually in the middle of the muddle that confronts all modestly educated working people and their extended communities—the global supermajority—at the dawn of the twenty-first century.”[25]

The rise of prisons is often linked to what French philosopher Michel Foucault calls the “disciplinary society.” According to Foucault’s 1975 study Discipline and Punish, Western Europe and its white settler colonies underwent a transformation in the relations between governance, education, and capital in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.[26] These societies allegedly moved from state forms associated with feudalism, elite education, and mercantile capitalism into forms of governance associated with nationalism, mass education, and industrial capitalism. New institutions and systems of social discipline were developed to manage national populations: the school, the army, and the prison. In place of violent punishment (such as public executions and floggings), subjects are indoctrinated into value systems that will “discipline” their behavior. The school does this positively; the prison does this negatively. Together these institutions provide an “education” in proper conduct. As many critics have pointed out, however, Foucault’s genealogy leaves out the modes of racial and colonial discipline and punishment that enabled the emergence and maintenance of such European and white settler civil societies.[27] These critics clarify how populations who cannot be educated as labor for either colonial expansion or industrial capitalism become the necessary condition for societies to appear liberal, civil, and governable—they become subjects of reform and punishment through which existing distributions of value are rationalized and justified.

Alternative accounts of post-1970s mass incarceration in the US offer a longer genealogy of penal institutions and their linkage to broader systems of human immobilization, capture, and containment; see Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete? for one definitive account of this history.[28] The earliest practices of English imprisonment linked new modes of governance to emergent capitalism, specifically realized in the use of architectural containment to punish poverty (debtor’s prisons), legal mechanisms to translate mobility into criminality (vagrancy as the crime of being without land or labor), and legalized practices of punishment that produced a mobile colonial labor force (through kidnapping, impressment, indenture, and enslavement).[29] The American colonies were among the first to generate physical structures not only for the express purpose of containing and managing a labor force, but also as a way of ascribing permanent social value, as status, to subjects through practices of confinement and imprisonment.[30] Chattel slavery is one of the most notorious facets of this system, as it attempted to ascribe permanent social value to humans by making “race” a status category.[31] The construction of race as status was predicated equally on the exclusion of indigenous peoples from civilized humanity and on legitimating practices of genocide, forced removal, and incarceration that vacillated between “recognizing” independent native sovereignty over delimited territory and “restricting” native sovereignty through geographic containment (the reservation system).[32] This historical approach situates the birth of the “modern prison” (typically dated to the Antebellum construction of Eastern State Penitentiary and Auburn Prison in the U.S.) in the broader context of colonial, racialized and gendered discipline and punishment. The Antebellum imprisonment of white men imposed “civil death,” or loss of legal rights, as a punishment and incentive for reform.[33] This carceral logic did not work as well for those without legal rights, whose control and punishment would mostly occur beyond the formal prison until later in the nineteenth century.[34]

This complex relationship between race, gender, and systems of punishment was replicated across systems of education. Formal systems of education, like those of incarceration, apportioned civil life through assignations of race and gender status. Such status-making projects relied on educational practices that tied differential kinship (race as legal descent) to differential education. The denial of literacy to enslaved Africans and African Americans and forced education in the protocols of white supremacy (tied unevenly to Christianization) occurred while enlarged public education for the white population was set in motion. The extension of public education across white populations—as part of the making of “whiteness” as a status achievable by European immigrants—prepared them for liberal citizenship, including acceptance of existing capitalist, racial, and gender relations, while indoctrination into such relations required at times the denial of education and at other times coerced or forced education for those designated nonwhite, such as in the case of the Indian boarding schools and mission houses. After the Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment (1865) famously declared “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” putting an end to legal enslavement on the basis of race even as it instituted legal enslavement as punishment for crime. In combination with the political apportionment clause in the Fourteenth Amendment, this set in motion longstanding struggles over whether or not a “badge of servitude” could be justly imposed by the category of “race” or whether it must be delimited in scope by the category of “crime” (and whether people designated nonwhite could be de facto or de jure branded criminals).[35]

Across the later nineteenth century, legal cases discerning the changing meaning of race as status (Plessy v. Ferguson, the racial prerequisite cases, blood quantum rulings) shaped a nexus of institutional practices using “race” to recalibrate the meaning of crime and vice versa.[36] From Reconstruction onward, race was used first explicitly and then implicitly to differentiate between populations fit for educational mechanisms (disciplinary and carceral reform) versus punitive ones (denial of educational access and carceral labor).[37] After the Civil War, for example, New York prison reformers Enoch Cobb Wines and Theodore Dwight “advocated making reformation of the offender the primary object of imprisonment, at least where young offenders were concerned,” rather than making industrial profit.[38] Meanwhile, Southern carceral reformers developed the black codes that introduced specific racial penalities for “vagrancy” and ultimately led to the convict lease system, which reproduced conditions of legal slavery for the specific benefit of the state by “renting out a convict to a private company for a specific term.”[39] Gilded Age and Progressive Era experiments with reform and punishment continued to calibrate forced mobilization—orphan trains, child saving operations, Indian boarding schools—against forced immobilization—the growth of women’s prisons, new jails for status-based juvenile crimes, colonial occupation in the Pacific and Caribbean, migrant detention on Angel Island, and so on.

This longer genealogy makes it easier to understand how late-twentieth-century imbrications of education and incarceration emerge from already extant practices of governance. In particular, this nineteenth and early twentieth-century history helps situate the rise and fall of Keynesian economic policies in the shift from Progressivism to the Welfare-Warfare state and then the Workfare-Warfare state.[40] Many critics have linked the late twentieth-century boom in carceral systems (including the construction of new prisons as well as the development of massive infrastructures of policing, detention, and administration) to a broader shift away from the “disciplinary” society described above, which always included violence and disentitlement for many, to the wholesale structural adjustment of social expectations aligned with neoliberalism. According to Ruth Wilson Gilmore, this occurred through the mid-century development of “military Keynesianism,” which describes “the centrality of war-making to socioeconomic security,”[41] and then the subsequent dismantling of the state’s responsibility to redistribute the “socioeconomic security” developed through the “Military-Industrial Complex.”[42] The “welfare” function of the Welfare-Warfare state was replaced in the neoliberal era by a “post-Keynesian state-building project” that turns welfare into workfare.[43] People who have been de- and re-territorialized throughout the twentieth century to meet the national needs of capital suffer new forms of domestic abandonment as capital is liberated (via trade “deregulation”) and labor is opened globally to uneven geographic exploitation-without-development.[44]

Within the US, this transformation has been linked to the turn to mass incarceration (and dismantling of systems of mass access to education, healthcare, social services, and jobs). The building of prisons for mass incarceration resolved problems associated with surplus populations (warehousing some portions of the surplus population in regions that create jobs and political capital for others), surplus capital (providing sites of investment as well as extraction), and surplus state power.[45] To explain this final point, Gilmore argues that since the 1970s “the state built itself by building prisons fashioned from surpluses that the newly developing political economy had not absorbed in other ways.”[46] This neoliberal state derived political power from claiming to shrink the state, specifically its welfare functions, while actually building the state apparatus through anti-immigrant legislation, three-strikes laws, and drug-related mandatory sentencing. This allowed the state to absorb anti-racist social-justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s by creating formally race-neutral (non–white supremacist) policies that nevertheless result in explicitly racist effects, such that prisons incarcerate wildly disproportionate numbers of people of color.[47] The racist outcomes of post-1970s policing and detention have often been linked to the economic restructuring of the United States to maximize the flow of transnational capital by sharpening international divisions of labor. They are also central to the reorganization of gender and sexual norms for political and economic purposes, including the elaboration of new penalties for often racialized and class-demarcated gender and sexual transgression.[48] As Gilmore summarizes this transformation: “The crisis of state capacity then became, peculiarly, its own solution, as the welfare-warfare state began the transformation, bit by bit, to the permanent crisis workfare-warfare state, whose domestic militarism concretely recapitulated in the landscapes of depopulated urban communities and rural prison towns.”[49]

The rise of post 1970s mass incarceration is not therefore merely about prisons per se, but more broadly about a transformation in the systems that define and distribute human value, including what precisely humans deserve, and who is accountable to provide this for them; education is one of these systems. In the 1960s and 1970s, radical movements for racial, sexual, and gendered liberation crystallized longstanding struggles over state power, including its function in the redistribution of wealth, its regulation of labor and financial markets, and its commitment to infrastructural support for all. These claims included educational access as part of infrastructural redistribution—affirmative action being the most limited outcome of demands for full equality of educational institutions and entrance into higher education. The 1980s and 1990s might be equally characterized as periods of radical struggles over economic justice, but this time the welfare state itself was the target. Here neoliberal activists (both politically liberal and conservative) sought to shrink the state’s role in redistribution, regulation, and infrastructural guarantees, including a specific attack on public access to higher education. In the turn from race to crime as the logic of disentitlement (and the expansion of crime to include a broad range of practices associated once again with poverty, vagrancy, or kinship), a huge swath of the human population is moved from state-supported education into state-supported incarceration (and the state is reduced to the legal and policy mechanism for corporate rule).[50] In so doing, the capacity to sustain self-determined social life-worlds is dramatically impoverished; communities are fractured and relationships frayed by geographies of prison placement and temporalities of doing time. Theorizing more broadly, Dylan Rodríguez suggests that “the prison is less a ‘destination’ point for ‘the duly convicted’ than a point of massive human departure—from civil society, the free world, and the mesh of affective social bonds and relations that produce varieties of ‘human’ family and community.”[51]

II. Education Justice

Such a “massive human departure” is facilitated in the later twentieth and early twenty-first century by the promise of a “selective human return”: philanthropic efforts help to lift up the most worthy among the disentitled masses. As public entitlements shrink and market-based responses rise, non-profit organizations frequently step in to provide distributive and service functions. What were once grassroots struggles against the welfare state have become through neoliberal pressure part of what Gilmore calls “the shadow of the shadow state,” which “take[s] responsibility for persons who are in the throes of abandonment rather than responsibility for persons progressing toward full incorporation into the body politic.”[52] These organizations play a specific role in buffering limited access for the poor or working classes, seeking a combination of public and private funding to offer minimal versions of a social safety net.[53] In relation to education, neoliberal activism targets systems of public entitlement to higher education, offering private solutions to raise worthy individuals from their mass problems. Increasingly philanthropic and private efforts are called upon to provide even minimal access to what was once “public” education. This is particularly true for efforts to provide access to higher education within prisons themselves.

Dylan Rodríguez has been among the most forceful critics of what he calls “liberal philanthropic” visions of education programs in prison. In particular, he is critical of the idea that providing access to higher education behind bars is equivalent to either education or social justice. Rodríguez expresses concern that post-1960s higher education programs in prison tend to view themselves as independent from the carceral system itself, providing access to education otherwise denied the large numbers of people living behind bars in the US. Rodríguez asks us to resituate these programs within the specific reorganizations of human value aligned with neoliberalism, however, rather than as antagonistic to it. For Rodríguez, higher education programs in prison designed and offered in the wake of more radical intellectual organizing within the prisons could be seen as part of broader “attempts to absorb and institutionalize the political-intellectual work of imprisoned intellectuals and activists.”[54] It is of course not fully possible to institutionalize the political and intellectual work of imprisoned peoples, whose thinking and actions cannot be totally constrained by sanctioned educational programming even in deeply coercive conditions. Rodríguez’s point here is that such programs may introduce the illusion of hegemony such that intellectual participation in programming delimits the horizon of political imagination and praxis. Rodríguez suggests that while higher education programs in prisons may have a range of intentions and effects, overall such programs work to “stretch the epistemological and intellectual limits of the state’s capacity to surveil and proctor its captives.”[55] Providing access to higher education in prison does not necessarily challenge the project of mass incarceration and the dismantling of mass education in which it is situated.

This critique suggests that education programs in prison can too easily enact neoliberal governance. They institute new partnerships between state institutions (such as the Department of Corrections and public colleges and universities) and seemingly non-state actors (volunteers and non-profits). This structure severely impacts the possibility and meaning of education within the carceral context. Such programs can also extend carceral modes beyond the prison itself in ways that effectively curtail more imaginative and emancipatory educational projects. In her study of what she calls “semicarceral settings,” Lynn Haney works to “conceptualize the linkages that can form across state institutions and to connect the management of conduct in different state spaces.”[56] As part of a neoliberal movement for rehabilitation (“rather than” punishment), many subjects are placed in institutions that understand education as therapeutic and therapy as educational, an important part of rehabilitation and preparation for a return to society. In her study of two “semicarceral settings,” Alliance and Visions, Haney argues that women in particular are remanded to “hybrid” institutions that partner state, non-profit, and private actors.[57] Within these complex systems, state authority itself is diffused through new formations of hybrid governmental processes through which “conduct is managed and directed” for all participants in the system, including administrators, teachers, students, and activists.[58]

Thus the selective return to humanity promised by education programs in prisons seems to constitute new relations between neoliberal subjects of governance as well as new institutions and systems of “humanization” and selective politicization. On the one hand, this system threatens to reduce what Haney calls the “social imaginations” of activists working within carceral education programs.[59] Madonna Thunder Hawk points out that entering into funding streams changes activist imagination: “just by trying to keep funding and pay everyone’s salaries, they start to unconsciously limit their imagination of what they could do.”[60] On the other hand, this process threatens to replace what Rodríguez calls a more radical “contemporary prison praxis” with “the politically domesticating and delimited nomenclatures of ‘prison writing’ and ‘prison education.’”[61] This is what Joy James, in her 2005 collection The New Abolitionists, describes as the limits of “penal slave narratives” which do not always “offer new visions of freedom. Some yearn for emancipation (parole, clemency) but not freedom (liberation from racial, economic, gender repression) and the political agency and risk-taking that could realize it.”[62] These critiques point to the problem with providing access to a system—shifting one’s given position within it—rather than demanding justice from it. The latter requires a transformation of its institutions, values, and practices, including those proffering education—from credit-bearing college to vocational gender and sexuality training—as “uplift” from racial and class oppression. As Angela Davis summarizes this problem, “you might say that prison abolition is a way of talking about the pitfalls of the particular version of democracy represented by U.S. capitalism.”[63]

While I agree with the critique of philanthropic efforts enabled by the carceral system, including well-meaning liberal and seemingly radical practices that fall far short of their aims, I do not think this critique requires that we abandon efforts to develop higher education programs inside prisons and to ensure access to college education post-release. It is inevitable that such programs run the risk of exposing students to harm; they are situated within and amidst the harm-inflicting, ontologically and epistemologically violent conditions of incarceration. This is a conflict (or contradiction) intrinsic to such programs, and it is only possible to resolve this conflict/contradiction through prison abolition and broader movements for racial, economic, and education justice. The goal of prison abolition must therefore be intrinsic to the programs themselves. It is also true that education programs in prison, however well intentioned, run the risk of replicating the most restrictive forms of public education instituted in the service of neoliberal governmentalization. But in our current political climate, so do many education programs outside the walls of the prison. In particular, many higher education programs run the risk of being complicit in broader efforts to undermine access to public education as part of what Haney calls “the contemporary politics of disentitlement” attending neoliberal restructuring of economic, social, and human value.[64]

This seems particularly true as I write and revise this essay, while state universities across the country are under attack for everything from unionization and teacher salaries to offering ethnic studies and humanities curricula. Accusations of bureaucratic inefficiency and failure to adapt to neoliberal markets for labor and capital are part of a broader attack on public funding for “inefficient” or low value knowledge. According to Bill Gates in his 2011 speech to the National Governors Association:

Now in the past, it felt fine to just say, ok, we’re overall going to be generous to this sector. But in this era, to break down and really say what are the categories that help fill jobs and drive the state economy in the future, you’ll find that it’s not across the board in terms of everything that the state subsidizes in higher education.[65]

Here we see a shift in the meaning of “public” education away from community-based demands for state redistributive mechanisms and into market-based delivery systems in the service of capital.[66] In an era when high-interest-bearing private student loans allow debt-based access to higher education, especially for the dwindling middle classes, we are seeing the financialization of education for the benefit of the very philanthropists who will later refinance it.

Here I wish to explore higher education programs in prison not as an answer, but as a terrain of critical and tactical struggle among various academics and activists, precisely over the conditions of “access to higher education” as an education justice issue. If college programs in prison might restrict and govern the critical imagination of both students and teachers, so too might “free-world” college and university programs in which curricular and pedagogical sovereignty against “the market” and “the state” have always been in tension with curricular and pedagogical accountability to “the community.” In effect, our current moment exposes how higher education has long been a site of struggle between state, market, and community-based activists, a struggle over and at times against the will of academics who sometimes see themselves as institutionally apart and protected from such struggles.[67] Universities have played a key role in the transformation of social knowledge and economic distribution during the neoliberal era. We should not yield our claim upon the college and university system as a domain of public institutions for intellectual expansion and education justice.

III. Programs in Prison

So what are the institutional constraints and possibilities of higher education programs in prison within this context? What does public access to higher education mean at this juncture, when the aims and practices of higher education are under a more general assault and mandated neoliberal revision? What follows is a very cursory summary of the basic contours of higher education programs in prison, with a specific focus on programs that provide college credit, certificates, and degrees. Struggles to provide and ensure general access to the completion of a GED are ongoing across states; frequently, this curriculum is delivered through state contracts with specific community colleges or educational facilities. Higher education programs in prison, or post-GED programming, attempt to enter this complex field and develop: 1) institutional relationships that enable high-quality education to be delivered inside prisons, which requires by definition the permission of the Department of Corrections and, if college credit is sought, a matriculation agreement with an accredited college or university; 2) organizational structures that match the expectations of one or all of the following: private funders, state funders, accreditation partners (college or university), and/or 501(c)(3) bylaws and boards of directors; 3) program goals that define recognizable and measurable outcomes that demonstrate the “effectiveness” and “efficiency” of the program delivery model so that it can be sustained over time (i.e., meeting the expectations of financial and institutional partners); and finally, 4) curricular offerings and pedagogical approaches that offer the best access to the broadest range of courses that meet the goals, needs, and interests of students. This last also requires the recruitment, training, and supervision of qualified and appropriate educators (paid or volunteer).

Overall, the structures of programs vary widely. A 2011 issue brief from the Institute for Higher Education Policy on “Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Postsecondary Education in State Prisons” reports the results of a web-based national survey of corrections education administrators from 43 states (Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia did not respond). The survey gathered information from state officials on student enrollment/completion, methods of instruction, eligibility restrictions, and funding sources. This brief emphasizes disparities in incarcerated students’ access to higher education, specifically academic higher education programs, reporting that “incarcerated students are not earning two- or four-year post-secondary degrees in significant numbers.”[68] One primary obstacle to access is funding. The table depicting funding sources for post-secondary correctional education programs notes that both high- and low-enrollment states rely on federal funding for post-secondary education (93–100 percent), while states with high-enrollment in post-secondary education programs are 77 percent supported by state funding (as opposed to only 23 percent in low-enrollment states). This suggests that state regulations or opportunities for funding for higher education have a significant impact on access. Funding by colleges or universities and by philanthropy are more evenly matched: for high enrollment programs, 38 percent by college/universities and philanthropy alike, while low enrollment programs receive 20 percent from college/university and 23 percent from philanthropy.[69]

A related restriction is “factors affecting prisoner eligibility.” In fact, the table explaining funding sources seems to correlate to the specific eligibility restrictions found in the second table. The eligibility restrictions table lists “time to release,” “inmate’s age,” and “reason for incarceration” as the most significant factors affecting prisoner eligibility across low- and high-enrollment states.[70] This suggests at least a correlation between available funding sources and restricted access to programs; the majority of post-secondary access, that supported by federal and state funding, often restricts eligibility for students (lifers and those convicted of sex offenses are routinely excluded). Programs more likely to be open to all students, funded by college/university or philanthropy, are at a maximum providing 38 percent of all programming. It seems likely that academic programming (rather than or in addition to vocational) is also offered through these smaller funding streams, although this seeming correlation needs further study to demonstrate a causal link and is not clearly demonstrated by these charts.

Here I will focus on this smaller sub-set of programs which work through colleges, universities, or philanthropic support. These programs offer the most open eligibility for students on the inside according to DOC measures (“time to release,” “inmate’s age,” and “reason for incarceration”), although they may offer selective admission through more standard academic criteria (college readiness, application essays, etc.). Some of these programs began as projects of specific universities (Boston University, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Bard College), some as volunteer programs that developed a university and/or community college partnership (Cornell University and Princeton University), some as extension sites of a specific university or college (Prison University Project/Patten University and the College Program at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility/Marymount Manhattan College), and non-profits partnering with distance learning programs for the incarcerated (University Beyond Bars). These structures each afford specific benefits. The chief distinction between arrangements seems to be the amount of control over the assignment and training of teachers, the relative pay for teachers and program staff, and the permanence or sustainability of the program. The DOC infrastructure of each program also varies, with some patterns of long-term relationship building in evidence (such as offering low or no cost higher education opportunities to correctional staff) and some seemingly sustained commitments to educational partnership (bringing in theater groups, allowing art shows, multiple volunteer programs, etc.). Program funding varies as well: some programs are funded entirely by their host university (staff, teachers, and tuition), some receive tuition waivers or reductions but must fundraise their own staff salaries, and some operate primarily through volunteers with limited staff or teacher salary needs.

One of the most pressing issues facing college programs in prison is how to use limited space and funding to enable the maximum number of students to complete degrees. Some programs aim at open access to as many students as possible. The Prison University Project, operating out of San Quentin with the partnership of Patten University, offers open access to a college readiness curriculum for all post-GED students, who may enroll in AA classes once they complete the college readiness curriculum. The sponsoring university covers tuition, teachers work as volunteers, and money for staff and materials is developed through private grants and individual donors. Other programs offer more restricted access to their degree-granting programs, such as the Boston University Prison Program. Their program has competitive admission but is partnered with a cluster of other programs that serve the broader prison population (including the Partakers program, a religious organization that provides college readiness training). Boston University covers staff and tuition, although teachers are paid slightly less than for campus-based courses. Programs that do not have free tuition from a partner university—which is most often a private institution—must fundraise tuition from private foundations (one family foundation supports much of this work). Programs that depend upon federal or state monies—through the Workforce and Community Transitions Training for Incarcerated Individual Program (IIP) at the federal level or specific state distributions within corrections—often must enforce restricted eligibility. This frequently restricts educational access for anyone who is undocumented or sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or on a sexual offense.[71]

This is the problem confronted by efforts to create access to college education in particular: neoliberal college education is not free. In the context of formal credit-bearing institutions, value assigned to learning is also assigned a specific monetary value. Learning outcomes are overall subsidiary to program outcomes (here tied to broader institutional outcomes), measured by students enrolled and dollars delivered. College credit can be purchased without any demonstrable learning taking place, as has been the complaint about some private online universities as well as increasing numbers of private and public campus universities, where students understand themselves as consumers purchasing credits and credentials rather than learners engaged in education. But college credit cannot be earned through learning alone, without a monetary transaction, except in the rare case of honorary degrees. Course credit by examination, the lowest-cost formula, still requires a fee for “testing out” of a course based on learning beyond the classroom. Prison-based programs could forego college credit and focus instead on the value of learning at the college level. But many students and participants in these programs feel strongly that college credit is a key value—it appears to promise improved confidence and greater job access post-release as well as a credential whose value transfers across the walls. While college credit does not guarantee improved post-release outcomes, and beliefs in the magical powers of formal higher education are often overstated, there is no doubt that receiving college credit for their learning is important to students on the inside.

IV. Transforming Education

The problem remains that we cannot transform the conditions of education on the inside if we do not transform them on the outside, and vice versa. This requires the transformation of the naturalized relations among institutions of incarceration and institutions of education, and ultimately the abolition of the prison-industrial complex and reorganization of educational institutions as they currently exist. In closing, I’d like to consider the possibilities of and obstacles to transforming education within the systems of educational access and education justice outlined above. Transforming education aims at transforming relations between institutions and systems, not merely individual students or teachers operating within and across those institutions and systems.[72] This distinction is particularly important in discussions of “transformation” through education programs in prison: transformation here is meant to be institutional and systemic, not a transformation of students through access to education within a social security/social mobility paradigm. The implicit argument is that the aims of social justice articulated by such programs can be strengthened when they address the structural relationships among institutions of education and incarceration. Higher education in prison programs are in a unique position to transform the mechanisms naturalizing relations among prisons and universities/colleges. By creating and sustaining such programs within and across the institutional interfaces of prison and university/college, scholars and activists have an opportunity to design for and practice abolition justice at an institutional level.

This is my proposed tactical answer to the questions raised by Kirk Branch in the first epigraph to this essay: “By working to serve individual students, do we suggest the correctness and justness of the institutions and systems that they find themselves in and that we support with our own work? Conversely, by working to address the manifest injustices in such a system, do we neglect the individual lives presently caught within it?” This essay was meant to shift the grounds of such questions so that we might also pose new ones: how do these institutions and systems intersect in programs for currently incarcerated students? How can this intersection be leveraged to create mechanisms that actually transform the relations between individuals and systems? This means creating mechanisms in which currently and formerly incarcerated people are leaders in program development, participants in asking the questions and designing the tactics that not only answer them, but raise new questions and tactics. This is a programmatic goal of creating equity rather than equality in the design and implementation of higher education overall, with an aim at transforming the systemic and institutionalized inequities already installed as higher education and replicated in rhetorics of access. This seems urgent for everyone caught up in these systems and institutions, in which our respective roles as beneficiary or target are intertwined to such a degree that “access” can become an alibi for an ongoing process that diminishes life opportunities for all.

This leads me to the question that prompted this essay in the first place: who is the “we” empowered to transform education in the posing of such questions? Often, the people working collaboratively to negotiate and transform institutional mechanisms do not share background assumptions, positions, or orientations to the various institutions in question (collaborations often include people currently, formerly, and never incarcerated with various relations to formal higher education).[73] This is exacerbated as various intersectional approaches to race, class, gender, and sexuality must be processed through the formal “sex” segregated institutional spaces of prison. Higher education programs in prisons operate in an inter-institutional realm and include people with very different aims: some wish to abolish the current carceral system (of mass incarceration through the prison-industrial complex); some wish to reform that system (to make it more humanistic, more rehabilitative, less costly, etc.); and some wish to ensure access to quality education and have no position on the carceral system at all. Many (but not all) are mobilized by anti-racist approaches to incarceration, but not all anti-racisms are intersectional or include analyses of how gender and sexuality shape relations within and among various institutions, nor do these approaches consistently share an understanding of the prison-industrial complex or systemic analyses of racial capitalism. What follows is a closing thought experiment that takes seriously Rodríguez’s suggestion that we work toward “centering the antisystemic” as we think about transforming education.[74] This experiment is my own, not intended to represent the general thinking in higher education programs in prison. But I offer this narrative as my way of exploring how participants in higher education programs might redefine and strengthen their accountabilities to key constituencies and work toward transformative and education justice. This is in keeping with Ana Clarissa Rojas Durazo’s question: “is the daily minutiae of our work consistent with our vision for a more just and peaceful reality?”[75]

Let’s return for a moment to the four goals for higher education programs in prison I listed above: 1) institutional relationships; 2) organizational structures; 3) program outcomes; and 4) curriculum and pedagogy. Most practitioners would agree with me, I think, that the fourth—developing interesting and relevant curriculum and pedagogy that meets the goals, needs, and interests of students—is the real goal. This could include non-credit arts and literature programming, workshops on specific job skills, discussion groups on social justice and activism, non-credit courses on Chicano history or women’s studies, college readiness curricula, or standard offerings toward an AA or BA degree. However, establishing and evaluating these educational goals is extremely complex. It requires scholars and activists from the outside to be able to communicate well with scholars and activists on the inside about goals, needs, and interests, itself a fundamental obstacle given the stark disparities of power and access the prison literalizes. In the three programs I work with in Washington, University Beyond Bars (UBB), the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound (FEPPS), and the Black Prisoners’ Caucus T.E.A.C.H. program, there is an established leadership team or advisory committee on the inside that meets regularly to discuss curricular needs, pedagogical feedback, and overall program goals with program staff /volunteers/sponsors from outside. These arrangements can be somewhat rare, however, and depend upon a relationship between the program founders and administrators at the local correctional facility. Thus, achieving this brings us back to the first goal: developing an institutional relationship with the DOC.[76]

Establishing and evaluating such educational goals also requires scholars and activists working within the prison context to be able to communicate well with scholars and activists not already involved in this work about the goals, needs, and interests of students currently behind bars. If college credit is sought, a college or university must be willing to evaluate and endorse the quality of the program. This often requires the second and third goals above, a clear program structure with plans for accountability so that operations are transparent to people on the outside. The need to communicate clear structure and operations in line with those of sponsoring institutions can sideline efforts to create more complex operating procedures designed to build equity among all participants. This becomes a particular problem if people involved in the program do not have the time to figure out what meaningful equity would look like in their context, which might include more substantive collaboration on gender and sexual diversity in the program. And if college credit is going to be given, this creates the first inevitable need for funding: volunteer labor can create a relationship with the DOC and volunteer academics can create a relationship with an accreditation partner, but without state support (Pell Grants or other funding) tuition costs private money.

So now we have the need for fundraising, which requires more structure. Time that could be spent developing better relationships with students to ensure collaboration about needs and assessment, creating relationships with the families and communities of students, partnering with other projects working against mass incarceration and for mass quality and free education, working within existing colleges and universities for greater diversity and access (including in curriculum and pedagogy), and working to support legislation that will interrupt the neoliberal takeover of governance … this time is spent on the second and third goals above (organizational structure and measurable program goals). Assessment, perhaps the single most important mechanism for transforming the quality and purpose of educational programs, becomes linked to the goals of funders or institutional partners. This draws higher education in prison programs into alignment with neoliberal restructuring of educational opportunities more broadly by replicating an economic framework for evaluation. The learning outcomes that so many higher education programs in prison want to develop and share collaboratively—among themselves, with their students, with colleagues at accredited institutions—are superseded or tailored to suit program outcomes. Funders and many institutional partners want to see program outcomes measured in numbers of student credit hours completed or numbers of degrees granted—or, in the recidivism rates linking program completion to alleged social safety outcomes after release.

This is how many studies evaluate the success of education programs in prison: by measuring how student credit hours and degrees correlate to recidivism (sometimes presumed to exclude those sentenced to life without the possibility of parole). This “evidence-based” turn in program evaluation can usefully interrupt ideological and ungrounded arguments against broader access to higher education.[77] But how we define desirable outcomes and how we quantify them as “evidence” is crucial to achieving robust justice goals. Learning is hard to measure, as is critical thinking or historical understanding, and therefore higher education programs measured from the outside are often pressed to deliver the largest number of credit-bearing courses to the most students (with the shortest sentences) possible. Assessment—being able to develop and assess the effectiveness of specific teachers, pedagogies, and courses, being flexible enough to revise and revisit decisions that do not serve students’ goals—becomes a practice of program sustainability. Students may get access to college credit, but they do so at the (potential) cost of quality programs developing the very best curricular and pedagogical approaches for the situation.

Thus the bind for college programs in prison: their educational professionalization—through the hybrid institutionalizations of philanthropy/DOC/university—can effectively result in their educational depoliticization. In her introduction to The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, Andrea Smith points out that “while fundraising is part of organizing, fundraising is not a precondition for organizing.”[78] It is, however, a precondition for a college degree. And in the neoliberal context sketched here, it can force educational programs to decide between providing relevant and effective education regardless of college credit, or providing “college education” regardless of its relevance or effectiveness. This works to suspend the political goals that may be aligned with creating access to education inside prisons. Programs may be pressed into educational delivery, rather than educational innovation and transformation. This can severely limit the time and energy for transforming education among participants in programs, making it very hard to focus on whether “the daily minutiae of our work [is] consistent with our vision for a more just and peaceful reality.” Such pressure can also restrict program capacity to participate in shaping how education is valued and evaluated within public higher education institutions more broadly, including debates about evidence-based assessment and relevant curriculum and pedagogy for a wide range of students. Programs are pressed in effect to design for prisons, as Rodríguez complains, rather than against them and their relationship to limited higher education more generally.

And there’s the rub: higher education programs in prison are at worst pressed into providing either transferable value without value transformation, or value transformation without transferable value. Programs in prison might have to prioritize providing access to standardized higher education credits—value that transfers across institutional walls—over seeking to transform the values assigned to learning through the tuition-for-credit system (since they might create program-specific values that do not transfer easily to other educational institutions). To be clear, college programs inside prisons should not be treated as exceptional spaces for transforming education, nor should incarcerated students be categorically differentiated from students matriculated on and off campuses across the higher education spectrum.[79] My point is that transformation and transferability should be linked in every educational context, yet college in prison programs face unusual restrictions on participating in efforts to transform the values of higher education more generally. Higher education programs in prison often face more restrictive limits on their ability to ensure transformation is transferable than outside university and college programs, which often have room to innovate despite (and at times even through) the pressures of neoliberal reform. Even more troubling, college in prison programs are often treated as exceptions to or extensions of the more central concerns of higher education. This effectively shuts currently incarcerated people out of leadership roles in assessing and addressing the way access to higher education can be mobilized against neoliberal restructuring.

Despite these obstacles, many college in prison programs have undertaken important work facilitating new modes of education and working both through and against existing parameters of higher education in neoliberal times. Such programs work to connect scholars and activists on the inside to those on the outside to link and leverage their practices for broader social change. The biggest problem they face is how to create transformative systems across the diffuse institutions and practices of higher education. But there are strategies (many already underway) that can help build political connections without sacrificing program diversity. In closing, I will simply list a few current strategies undertaken by higher education programs in prisons to develop broader political alliances and participate in shared movement-building for social, economic, and educational justice: 1) national coalition-building; 2) shared assessment protocols; 3) constituency-based accountability; 4) inter-institutional collaboration.

First, college programs in prison are beginning to work together to share best educational and program practices; this includes supporting the initiative to return Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated people. Collaboration reduces isolation and clarifies how shared practices might work to transform and transfer values at a collective level. Second, such a coalition can develop assessment protocols that introduce our own measures for success. This is crucial if practices are to be developed that transform education on terms that work for program participants (rather than funders or outside institutions).[80] Program assessment might include not only student learning outcomes but also community-based outcomes, including impact on cross-generational access to education and economic self-determination, and inter-institutional outcomes, including impact on curriculum and pedagogy as well as community outreach and involvement in recruitment and retention. It can also center intersectional approaches to equity within higher education programs in prison. Third, each program can develop its own constituency-based accountabilities to allow for a range of educational and political goals across programs without sacrificing their ability to work together for broader collective impact. This would involve building relationship with families and communities impacted by educational inequity and mass incarceration as well as broader social movements in their area.[81] Linking constituency-based accountabilities with broader social movements enables programs to center those most impacted by the prison-industrial complex—including those often marginalized on the basis of gender or sexuality—while committing to participate in long-term movement building. As part of this commitment, programs can include cross-training and collective education to dismantle internalized power dynamics created by institutional experience.

Finally, each program can seek equitable collaboration, rather than sponsorship, from its accreditation partner.[82] This is one of the more challenging but most promising avenues for transforming the values of higher education. There is an opportunity to draw attention to broad-based challenges to publicly accessible and affordable higher education, clarifying relations between students across institutions designed for education and incarceration. The assault on the humanities in particular might be addressed through such mass mobilization of all constituencies left out of the educational arenas linked to economic self-determination and market-based mobility. Public higher education institutions can be pressed to evaluate the constituencies they serve and to develop multi-site programs to reach more potential students regardless of tuition (rather than developing multi-site programs that maximize tuition dollars). This might open higher education to broader constituencies seeking transformation of institutional values as they shape the walls between colleges and prisons. Public higher education loses a valuable political ally when it does not partner with the scholars and activists currently or previously behind prison walls. And everyone loses possibilities for education justice if we accept that the walls will always stand. Advocating for transforming education can be a part of a broader abolitionist vision; we must hold ourselves accountable to this vision as we work within and across existing institutions for education, economic, and racial justice.


Since I wrote this piece in 2011, the questions and tactics of activism and academia have continually shifted. Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s 2007 provocation to situate answers as conditions of possibility haunts its publication in 2015. The answer I considered here–college in prison programs–is still relevant. Perhaps its relevance as an answer to both stated and unstated questions has grown since 2011; the answer “college in prison” is proffered more frequently as a reasonable response to the unreasonable outcomes of mass incarceration, gaining in popularity alongside bipartisan approaches to reducing incarceration as a political solution to social and economic problems. But what has it become as a tactic? And what new questions do these conditions raise? Situated among neo-centrist rationalities of 2015, college in prison provides a condition of possibility for new tactics and questions aimed at abolition, not just reform, even as the ground gained shifts through differential geographies on the move. The temporal disjointedness introduced by such differential geographies, including the disjunct between academic publication and activist mobilization, mark the limits of this essay in ways that I hope prove useful to activists and academics creating new possibilities from present answers.

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  1. Kirk Branch, Eyes on the Ought to Be: What We Teach When We Teach about Literacy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), 7. [Return to text]
  2. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 27. [Return to text]
  3. Branch researches Seattle Goodwill Adult Learning Center (which used a Freirean model), Seattle Vocational Institute (SVI) (which became a pilot site for Integrated Curriculum for Achieving Necessary Skills [I-CANS]), a GED/general education program at the Douglas County Jail in Kansas (which blended educational and moral rehabilitation). [Return to text]
  4. This essay was originally drafted in 2011 as part of a Public Scholarship Grant from the University of Washington Simpson Center for the Humanities called “Transformative Education Behind/Beyond Bars.” For grant language and minutes, see Essay excerpts have since been published as “Access or Justice? Inside-Out and Transformative Education,” Turning Teaching Inside Out: A Pedagogy of Transformation for Community-Based Education, ed. Simone Davis and Barbara Roswell (Palgrave, December 2013): 187–196, and in the “College in Prisons” section of “Beyond Crisis: College in Prison through the Abolition Undercommons,” written with Erica R. Meiners, Lateral: Cultural Studies Association Journal 3 (Spring 2014): [Return to text]
  5. A short history is provided by Michael Bennet on the “Pell Grant Eligibility” webpage: The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act increased the amount of Pell Grants in 2010, although this amount was already reduced in Spring 2011. For a full history see TG Research and Analytical Services, “Opening the Doors to Higher Education: Perspectives on the Higher Education Act 40 Years Later” (November 2005): [Return to text]
  6. Public rhetoric emphasized the condition of “less eligibility” to argue that the Pell Grant created unfair access for imprisoned people. Incarcerated veterans can receive some education benefits (depending on felony status), and people under 25 can receive support through federal Incarcerated Youthful Offender (IYO) grants (1998). The 2008 Reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA 2008) renamed IYO the Workforce and Community Transitions Training for Incarcerated Individual Program (IIP) and increased the age limit to 35. HEOA 2008 also introduced new limits to eligibility, including restrictions on those convicted of murder and some sexual offenses, as well as some in involuntary civil commitment centers (likely to target those formerly incarcerated on a sex offense). The 2008 Second Chance Act creates some grant programs targeting reentry. See Laura E. Gorgol and Brian A. Sponsler, “Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Postsecondary Education in State Prisons” (issue brief, Washington, DC: Institute for Higher Education Policy, May 2011); U.S. Department of Education, “Partnerships Between Community Colleges and Prisons: Providing Workforce Education and Training to Reduce Recidivism” (March 2009). [Return to text]
  7. Wendy Erisman and Jeanne Bayer Contardo, “Learning to Reduce Recidivism: A 50-State Analysis of Postsecondary Correctional Education Policy,” The Institute for Higher Education Policy (November 2005); Minatiya Dawkins and Erin McAuliff, “Higher Education Behind Bars: Postsecondary Prison Education Programs Make a Difference,” Centerpoint, American Council on Education, October 14, 2008. [Return to text]
  8. Lisa Duggan, The Twilight of Equality? Neo-Liberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 2003); Clarence Lo, Small Property Versus Big Government: Social Origins of the Property Tax Revolt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). [Return to text]
  9. David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 168. Harvey argues that China, Chile, the US, and the UK developed neoliberal policies and practices somewhat at odds with the early theoretical formulations. [Return to text]
  10. Ibid., 87. [Return to text]
  11. Gilmore, Golden Gulag, 113. [Return to text]
  12. Gorgol and Sponsler gather these statistics in their issue brief “Unlocking Potential”: 1) between 2005–2009 state spending on corrections increased 25 percent compared to an 18 percent increase on higher education (National Association of State Budget Officers, State Expenditure Report 2009); $1 out of $15 state discretionary funds is spent on corrections (the Pew Center on the States, One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008), 4. [Return to text]
  13. On these intersections, see Angélica Cházaro, “Beyond Respectability: Dismantling the Harms of Illegality,” Harvard Journal on Legislation 52 (forthcoming 2016) and Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge, eds., Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders and Global Crisis (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012). Undocumented people in state prisons often have more restricted access to programs. [Return to text]
  14. The Sentencing Project lists these familiar statistics: 1) “The number of people incarcerated in state and federal prisons increased by 13% from 1,317,300 to 1,483,900 between 2000 and 2012, although the totals have declined modestly since 2009”; 2) “In addition to the nearly 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons, there were 744,500 people in local jails in 2012, yielding a total incarcerated population of 2.2 million”; 3) “As of 2009, 1 of every 135 Americans was incarcerated in prison or jail”; 4) “1 in every 13 black males ages 30 to 34 was in prison in 2011, as were 1 in 36 Hispanic males and 1 in 90 white males in the same age group.” See “Facts about Prisons and Prisoners” The Sentencing Project (Washington, D.C.) accessed 10/1/15: Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics (January 2104). [Return to text]
  15. The Sentencing Project reports a 587 percent increase in rates of women’s incarceration between 1980 and 2011, almost 1.5 times that of men. While reporting that “in 2011, black women were incarcerated at 2.5 times the rate of white women (129 versus 51 per 100,000)” and “Hispanic women were incarcerated at 1.4 times the rate of white women (71 versus 51 per 100,000)” it also reports increases in rates of women’s incarceration for Latino and white women between 2000 and 2010. “Gender Differences” labels differences between “men” and “women” in variables related to prior life history, charges and sentencing. See “Incarcerated Women Factsheet,” The Sentencing Project (Washington, DC) accessed 10/1/15: “Incarcerated Women.”. For analysis, see Victoria Law, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2009); Beth E. Richie, Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation (New York: New York University Press, 2012). [Return to text]
  16. See “It’s War in Here”: A Report on the Treatment of Transgender and Intersex People in New York State Men’s Prisons (New York: Sylvia Rivera Law Project, 2007); Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011); Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of the Law (Boston: South End Press, 2011); Eric Stanley and Matt Smith, eds., Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2011). [Return to text]
  17. See Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, with Priscilla Ocen and Jyoti Nanda, “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected,” Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (African American Policy Forum, 2015):; Malika Saada Saar, Rebecca Epstein, Lindsay Rosenthal, and Yasmin Vafa, “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story,” Human Rights Project for Girls (Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality/Ms. Foundation for Women, 2015). [Return to text]
  18. The first “Symposium on Higher Education in Prison” was sponsored by the Education Justice Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign on October 8–10, 2010. Subsequent gatherings have been held at the University of Washington Simpson Center for the Humanities (2011) and the St. Louis University Prison Program (2013). A fourth conference again sponsored by the Education Justice Project was planned for 2014 but canceled to support the boycott of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign on behalf of Steven Salaita. A complete listing of programs represented at the first national conference can be found in Cory Holding, Tracy Dace, Simon Schocken, and Rebecca Ginsburg, eds., “Prison Higher Education Programs: An Incomplete Assessment,” The Education Justice Project, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (October 2010). Kaia Stern of the Harvard University Prison Studies Project (which partners with Boston University’s Prison Education Program and the Massachusetts Department of Correction) has completed a National Directory of Higher Education in Prison. The national directory can be accessed at [Return to text]
  19. Education from the Inside Out Coalition, led by the Fortune Society and College and Community Fellowship (CCF), has led efforts to reinstitute Pell Grant eligibility and broader access to higher education for people in prison. For more information, see the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) at On the Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act, see Rev. Vivian Nixon, “Let’s Get Real: Prison is No Place for Elitism,” Huffington Post, June 1, 2015. [Return to text]
  20. The University Beyond Bars has offered courses inside the Washington State Reformatory for men since 2003 (; the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound has offered courses inside the Washington Corrections Center for Women since 2011 (; and the Black Prisoners’ Caucus T.E.A.C.H. program has offered courses inside the Clallam Bay Correctional Center since 2012 ( [Return to text]
  21. Washington State is an exemplary neoliberal case study: it enacts its state’s rights to set zero income and corporate tax, cut financing for higher education, uphold three-strikes laws, and terminate options for parole, while it supports private-sector opportunities to create new markets (Amazon, Microsoft, and Google) and utilize the profits to create philanthropic solutions to the problems caused by public/private restructuring (the Gates Foundation). See, for example, the recent struggle over the commission of a new youth jail coupled with private condominium development from EPIC,, and WISH, For more on related Washington politics, see Columbia Legal services, [Return to text]
  22. Special issues on this topic include “Incarceration and Social Justice,” PMLA 123.3 (May 2008); Shana Agid, Michael Bennett, Kate Drabinski, eds., “Teaching Against the Prison Industrial Complex,” Radical Teacher 88 (Summer 2010); “Post-Secondary Education,” Journal of Correctional Education 62.2 (June 2011); Shana Agid, Kate Drabinski, and Gillian Harkins, “Teaching Inside Carceral Institutions,” Radical Teacher 95 (Winter 2012). [Return to text]
  23. INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, eds., The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (Cambridge: South End Press, 2009). [Return to text]
  24. Erica R. Meiners, The Right to be Hostile: Schools, Prisons, and the Making of Public Enemies (New York: Routledge, 2007). [Return to text]
  25. Gilmore, Golden Gulag, 11. [Return to text]
  26. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (1977; repr. New York: Vintage Books, 1979). [Return to text]
  27. For a direct critique, see Joy James, “Erasing the Spectacle of Racialized State Violence” in Resisting State Violence: Radicalism, Gender and Race in U.S. Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 24–43. [Return to text]
  28. See Angela Y. Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003). [Return to text]
  29. Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000). [Return to text]
  30. Scott Christianson, With Liberty for Some: 500 Years of Imprisonment in America (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998). [Return to text]
  31. Dennis Childs calls this the “Middle Passage carceral model”; Childs, “‘You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet’: Beloved, the American Chain Gang, and the Middle Passage Remix,” American Quarterly 61.2 (2009): 271–297. For historical background, see Stephanie E. Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007). [Return to text]
  32. Luana Ross, Inventing the Savage: The Social Construction of Native American Criminality (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998). [Return to text]
  33. See Caleb Smith, “Civil Death and Carceral Life” from The Prison & the American Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 27-52. [Return to text]
  34. See Norval Morris and David J. Rothman, eds. The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). [Return to text]
  35. Justice John Marshall Harlan, dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). On Fourteenth Amendment applications to race and corporations, see Stephen Best, The Fugitive’s Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004). [Return to text]
  36. Plessy v. Ferguson is the 1896 Supreme Court case upholding a Louisiana law mandating racial segregation; “racial prerequisite cases” is Ian Haney Lopez’s term for the group of cases from In re Ah Yup (1878) through Ex parte Mohriez (1944) determining that people of Arab, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and South Asian descent are not “white” by law; blood quantum laws are US legislation defining membership in American Indian tribes by degree of ancestry. Current efforts to label “undocumented” persons “illegal” replicate these debates. See Ian Haney Lopez, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 2006); Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery and Self-Making in Nineteenth Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Moon-Ho Jung, Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). [Return to text]
  37. For an historical overview of educational efforts in US prisons, see Megan Sweeney, “Tell Me What You Read; I’ll Tell You What You Are: Reading and Education in U.S. Penal History,” Reading Is My Window: Books and the Art of Reading in Women’s Prisons (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010). [Return to text]
  38. Christianson, With Liberty for Some, 177. [Return to text]
  39. Ibid., 181. [Return to text]
  40. For recent historical studies, see Kali N. Gross, Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880–1910 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006); Cheryl D. Hicks, Talk with You like a Woman: African American Women, Justice and Reform in New York, 1890–1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010); Khalil Gibran Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010). [Return to text]
  41. Gilmore, Golden Gulag, 25. [Return to text]
  42. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farewell Address to the Nation” (January 17, 1961). This concept was developed in Angela Davis’s 1997 speech “The Prison Industrial Complex,” published in Colorlines (Fall 1998). [Return to text]
  43. Gilmore, Golden Gulag, 53. [Return to text]
  44. What Harvey calls “accumulation by dispossession” has been practiced throughout colonial history and is a key feature of the exploitation of indigenous peoples and of migrant labor (including earlier legalization such as the Bracero Program). This recent phase dismantles white civil entitlements to national protection of labor through tariffs and unions. [Return to text]
  45. The federal political and policy development of mass incarceration is discussed in Naomi Murakawa, The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Loïc Wacquant, Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009); and Bruce Western, Punishment and Inequality in America (New York: Russell Sage Foundation Publications, 2007). [Return to text]
  46. Gilmore, Golden Gulag, 54. [Return to text]
  47. Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: the New Press, 2010); Joy James, ed. States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000). [Return to text]
  48. On mobilizations against this restructuring, see Roderick Ferguson, Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003); Grace Hong, The Ruptures of American Capital: Women of Color Feminism and the Culture of Immigrant Labor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006). [Return to text]
  49. Gilmore, Golden Gulag, 86. [Return to text]
  50. This too is changing as privatized prisons and detention centers replace state institutions. Decarceration risks in this context merely replacing state-based imprisonment with for-profit detention and administration. Recent coalitions to reduce reliance on prisons include conservative politicians advancing fiscal efficiency arguments. See Right on Crime at [Return to text]
  51. Dylan Rodriguez, Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 227. [Return to text]
  52. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, “In the Shadow of the Shadow State,” in INCITE!, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, 45. Reprinted in this issue. [Return to text]
  53. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded historicizes philanthropy as the result of massive disinvestment in governmental and state processes of redistribution and the rise of the “Non-Profit Industrial Complex” (NPIC) from the early 1900s to the present. See in particular Christine E. Ahn, “Democratizing American Philanthropy,” The Revolution Will Not Be Funded. [Return to text]
  54. Rodríguez, Forced Passages, 93. [Return to text]
  55. Rodríguez, Forced Passages, 89. Because such programs partner with the Department of Corrections, Rodríguez suggests that they run the risk of diverting prisoner-centered intellectual organizing into acceptable regimes of intellectual reform. In its worst case scenarios: “the conflicted incorporation of prison education into the functioning of the regime has actually enabled the criminalization and liquidation of more organic political education networks among imprisoned activists and radical intellectuals” (102). [Return to text]
  56. Lynn A. Haney, Offending Women: Power, Punishment, and the Regulation of Desire (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2010), 15, 8. [Return to text]
  57. Haney, Offending Women, 17. [Return to text]
  58. Ibid., 18. [Return to text]
  59. Ibid., 211. [Return to text]
  60. “Native Organizing before the Non-Profit Industrial Complex,” in INCITE!, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, 105. [Return to text]
  61. Rodríguez, Forced Passages, 80. [Return to text]
  62. Joy James, ed. The New Abolitionists: (Neo)Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), xxiii. [Return to text]
  63. Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005), 72. [Return to text]
  64. Haney, Offending Women, 212. [Return to text]
  65. Bill Gates, “Do’s and Don’ts for Higher Education Improvement,” Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, uploaded by Gates Foundation (March 1, 2011). The Gates Foundation is a key participant in the Vera Institute of Justice “Pathways Project,” a five-year pilot that supports state investment in cross-sectoral partnerships to provide higher education two years prior to and after release from prison; one of its four stated goals is to “demonstrate that there are cost-effective methods for providing access to postsecondary education and support services for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals.” See [Return to text]
  66. As in the case of labor and capital, education is globally de-territorialized as elite out-of-state and international students pay increasingly high fees to attend US public universities (while in-state residents face diminished access) and US universities create distance-learning and international campuses largely unknown to their domestic faculty. See Eng-Beng Lim, “Performing the Global University” Social Text 27.4 101 (2009): 25–44. [Return to text]
  67. See Chris Newfield, Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University 1880–1980 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003) and Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008); Rod Ferguson, The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012). [Return to text]
  68. Gorgol and Sponsler, “Unlocking Potential,” 3. [Return to text]
  69. Ibid., reported in Table 4, 15. [Return to text]
  70. Ibid., reported in Table 3, 14. Receiving infractions while incarcerated restricts access to programs also; this chart lists “in-prison infraction” at 85 percent for high enrollment programs, 27 percent for low enrollment. In-prison infractions can create a discretionary and often discriminatory system inside prisons tracking non-conforming “behavior” (including gender variance) into more restrictive and punitive carceration (IMU, transfer) rather than programs. [Return to text]
  71. Gorgol and Sponsler, “Unlocking Potential.” [Return to text]
  72. We used the phrase “transformative education” in the 2010–2013 University of Washington Simpson Center for the Humanities grant to focus on the institutional conditions of transformation. Other theories of transformative learning and transformative education promote learning mechanisms that create cognitive, affective, and experiential transformation for students within post-secondary education institutions and systems. Foundational arguments can be found in J. Mezirow, Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991); a summary of the changing field in E. W. Taylor, “An Update of Transformative Learning Theory: A Critical Review of the Empirical Research (1999–2005),” International Journal of Lifelong Education 26.2 (March 2007): 173–191. [Return to text]
  73. For a discussion of some academic projections onto prison work, see Jody Lewen, “Academics Belong in Prison: On Creating a University at San Quentin,” PMLA 123. 3 (May 2008): 689–695. [Return to text]
  74. Rodríguez, Forced Passages, 3. [Return to text]
  75. Ana Clarissa Rojas Durazo, “‘We Were Never Meant to Survive’: Fighting Violence Against Women and the Fourth World War,” in INCITE!, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, 113. [Return to text]
  76. This can come with its own assessment expectations, since the DOC benefits from tracking volunteer hours dedicated to “rehabilitation” as part of its delivery on core mission (which may otherwise not be funded or provided). [Return to text]
  77. Punitive approaches that are political or ideological contrast with empirical or “evidence-based” approaches. This is an important corrective to ungrounded ideological positions but restricts political goals to those that can be empirically proven (creating restrictive mechanisms and metrics for political values). See, for example, Ralph C. Stern, “Evidence-Based Practice: Principles for Enhancing Correctional Results in Prisons,” US Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections (December 2005) and Washington State Institute for Public Policy, “Evidence-Based Adult Corrections Programs: What Works and What Does Not,” (Olympia, WA, January 2006). [Return to text]
  78. Andrea Smith, “Introduction,” in INCITE!, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, 11. [Return to text]
  79. I take Daniel Karpowitz’s warning against creating “special” or “experimental” programming for incarcerated students very seriously. See Daniel Karpowitz, “Prison, College, and the Paradox of Punishment” in Austin Sarat, ed., Crime and Punishment: Perspectives from the Humanities, vol. 37 of Studies in Law, Politics and Society (New York: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2005): 305–331. [Return to text]
  80. For recent Correctional Education Association discussions of assessment, see Allison Daniel Anders and George W. Noblit, “Understanding Effective Higher Education Programs in Prisons” and Stephen J. Meyer, “Factors Affecting Student Success in Postsecondary Academic Correctional Education Programs,” Journal of Correctional Education 62.2 (June 2011): 77–93 and 132–164, respectively. [Return to text]
  81. The Georgia prisoners’ strike list of demands included access to higher education as well as improved healthcare, GED and skills training, freedom from violence, and other core entitlements. Related core demands emerged from the California prison hunger strikes. Determining what constituency programs wish to be accountable to can help them align their core work more effectively with other groups to achieve shared goals. This can also shape decisions about fundraising, including moves toward grassroots fundraising efforts that make programs directly accountable to their constituencies. [Return to text]
  82. The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and programs like the Harvard Prison Project create educational frameworks that allow students enrolled in “free-world” and prison college programs to learn together. [Return to text]