Research in Brief - Higher Education in an Era of Mass Incarceration: Possibility Under Constraint
Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education
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AbstractIn this essay, we explore the purposes of higher education in prison during an era of mass incarceration and contend that the potential of postsecondary educational opportunity in carceral spaces is undermined by a single-minded focus on reducing recidivism. Among the over 2.2 million individuals behind bars in the United States, only 6 percent have access to formal postsecondary educational opportunities, and as a result, most incarcerated students are not on an educational pathway likely to result in academic degree attainment. We must move beyond a recidivist paradigm not because certificate-based and vocational training is not valuable, but because it is simply not enough of what college-in-prison programming can be or do. Drawing upon the experiences of higher education students who are incarcerated, our analysis reveals how even well-intended practices in prison spaces pose obstacles to seeing incarcerated individuals as potential postsecondary students and degree completers.