prison education, reentry, college in prison, adult education, transformative education, qualitative methods, liberal studies, isolation, social justice
This qualitative study examines the immediate and lasting impact of liberal arts higher education in prison from the perspective of former college-in-prison students from the Northeastern United States. Findings obtained through semi-structured interviews with formerly incarcerated people are presented in the following three areas: self-confidence and agency, interpersonal relationships, and capacity for civic leadership. This study further examines former students’ reflections on the relationship between education and human transformation and begins to benchmark college programming with attention to the potential for such transformation. The authors identify four characteristics critical to a program’s success: academic rigor, the professor's respect for students, discussion-based learning, and respectful relationships between college and prison personnel. This study contributes to the growing field of scholarship on the benefits of prison higher education beyond those captured by studies of high-level data, such as the rate of return to prison.
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