Prison education, gender, Inside-Out Prison Exchange Programme, women’s prison, England and Wales


This article is a critical reflection of the role of gender in the delivery of a higher education course based on the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Programme. Related concepts such as hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and intersectionality are discussed within the prison education setting. This reflection primarily draws on critical incidents from the experiences of the first three authors facilitating a higher education course in a women’s prison in England. One major reflection is that learning in a group of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ students, all self-identified women, who vary along the dimensions of age, class, ethnicity, nationality and sexual expression, presented unique dynamics. This included working with both collectiveness and difference, gender-aligned expectations about behaviour, and experiences of control, criminal justice and higher education. Additionally, all four authors' experiences of delivering various higher education courses under different prison-education partnership models in both men and women’s prisons allows for comparison and reflection on the institutional reproduction of gender norms. These reflections point to the conclusion that, despite the strong presence of intersectional divisions, gender can become a uniting force when working with an all-women student group, fostering critical thinking and engagement with challenging structural issues. However further reflection considers that being gender-conscious in the classroom should not be limited to all-women student cohorts, as this is exactly what may enable facilitators to tackle some of the issues produced by hegemonic masculinity in a mixed prison classroom.

Author Bio

Giulia Zampini is an early career researcher engaged in interdisciplinary scholarship on the interplay between science, politics, morality and values in drug and prostitution policy-making, which was the subject of her PhD thesis and subsequent work. Giulia is also a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Greenwich, where she has become interested in embodied critical pedagogy and prison education.

Linnéa Österman is a Senior Lecturer and researcher at the University of Greenwich. Her research interests revolve around gender and crime, desistance, comparative penology, restorative interventions, and critical pedagogy. Completing her doctorate in Criminology at the University of Surrey in early 2016, Linnéa has been involved in a number of research projects focussing on women’s experiences of justice in various cultures and contexts over the last 10 years.

Camille Stengel is an early career researcher and Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Greenwich. She is interested in drug policy, harm reduction, and prison education. She completed her dual PhD in Cultural and Global Criminology from the University of Kent in the UK and ELTE University in Hungary in 2016. Camille is a trained Inside-Out Prison Exchange facilitator, and has led courses in two English prisons.

Morwenna Bennallick is a Lecturer at the University of Westminster. She is an early career researcher currently completing her PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London where she has also co-run a Learning Together partnership with HMP Feltham. Her research explores features of learning cultures in prison. She has worked with Prisoners' Education Trust developing and managing the PUPiL network for prison university partnerships.

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