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Keywords

prison education, performative space, transformative education, Walls to Bridges

Abstract

Prison education is often cited as the only redeeming experience in an otherwise cruel environment. While educational programs are found in prisons across Canada, they are often guided by philosophies of punishment, risk, and security rather than more transformative frameworks. In addition to prison staff and management who struggle to find value in education for education’s sake, the physical spaces in which learning takes place in prison also interfere with efforts at promoting agency and autonomy amongst incarcerated students. In this paper, we conceptualize the prison classroom as a performative space and demonstrate ways in which prison classrooms can become critical public spheres. We review theoretical literature on performative space, specifically in relation to prison education classrooms. We then examine the dynamics of: (1) navigating institutional policies and practices when teaching inside carceral spaces; and (2) the constraints that structure the carceral classroom. Finally, we take up the program Walls to Bridges as a case study example to demonstrate these findings and the transformative power of prison education.

Author Bio

Samantha McAleese is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at Carleton University. Her research examines the changes made to Canada’s pardon system and the impact of these changes on people with criminal records and the work of non-profit organizations that provide community-based supports. Her research is driven by her frontline experiences which indicate a growing need for community-based resources – especially as individuals become burdened by increasingly punitive criminal justice policies and structural stigma. Her latest publications can be found in Canadian Public Administration/Administration publique du Canada, The Canadian Review of Sociology / Revue canadienne de sociologie, and The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice.

Jennifer M. Kilty is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa. A critical prison studies scholar, her research examines criminalization, punishment and incarceration. She has published works on conditions of confinement, carceral segregation practices, the criminalization of HIV nondisclosure, prison education and pedagogy, and the mental health experiences of criminalized people. Her edited and authored books include: Demarginalizing Voices: Commitment, Emotion and Action in Qualitative Research (2014, UBC Press), Within the Confines: Women and the Law in Canada (2014, Women’s Press), Containing Madness: Gender and ‘Psy’ in Institutional Contexts (2018, Palgrave), and the Enigma of a Violent Woman: A Critical Examination of the Case of Karla Homolka (2016, Routledge).

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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