"There’s More That Binds Us Together Than Separates Us": Exploring the Role of Prison-University Partnerships in Promoting Democratic Dialogue, Transformative Learning Opportunities and Social Citizenship
Prison-University partnerships, social citizenship, transformative learning, pedagogic participatory dialogue.
In this paper we argue that education – particularly higher education (HE) - has the potential to offer socially, economically and culturally transformative learning opportunities–cornerstones of social citizenship. Yet, for prisoners, the opportunity to engage in HE as active citizens is often limited. Using a Freirean model of democratic, pedagogic participatory dialogue, we designed a distinctive prison-University partnership in which prison-based learners and undergraduate students studied together. The parallel small-scale ethnographic study, reported here, explored how stereotypes and ‘Othering’ - which compromise social citizenship - could be challenged through dialogue and debate. Evidence from this study revealed a positive change in ‘de-othering’ attitudes of participants was achieved. Furthermore, participants reported growth in their sense of empowerment, agency, and autonomy–cornerstones of social citizenship. Findings from this study contribute further evidence to the developing body of knowledge on the value of partnerships and dialogue in prison education. We conclude that policy makers, and respective institutions, need to work harder to establish prison-University partnerships, thus providing the space for "real talk" to take place.
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