higher education, censorship, curricula, policy, administration


This research was inspired by allegations of censorship of college curricula in an Illinois state penitentiary. This example highlights the confusion and controversy that may ensue when disagreements arise over what students in prison-based college programs are permitted to read and learn. Following this, my research considers these relevant questions: First, do many programs and prisons encounter disagreements over certain instructional materials? Next, to what extent are these rooted in clashing institutional values and priorities? And finally, what can be done to quell controversy, reduce confusion, and strengthen relationships between colleges and prisons? To shed light on these questions, I surveyed over forty practitioners from Higher Education in Prison (HEP) programs based in state penitentiaries across the United States. In particular, I asked about security clearance protocols for instructional materials, as well as institution-specific restrictions on modality and content. I report and discuss the findings and implications of this survey in the analysis that follows. As such, the intended audience for this report includes stakeholders in both academia and corrections, and others interested in strengthening relations between colleges and prisons that partner to educate incarcerated students.

Author Bio

Magic M. Wade is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois Springfield. She has previously worked with the Education Justice Project at the University of Urbana-Champaign as a volunteer instructor and program coordinator.

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


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