Critical Pedagogy in Prison Education: Teaching for Democracy, Liberation, and Civic Engagement in an Institution of Control
The purpose of my capstone essay is to situate prison education as an issue of justice and critical pedagogy as the catalyst for transformation. The prison population is disproportionately from non-dominant culture and is further disenfranchised through incarceration and the criminal justice system. Critical pedagogy is appropriate, effective prison pedagogy because it addresses injustice in the lived experiences of the prisoner-students, and in societal institutions and structures, such as schools and public policy; further, it is adaptable to the needs of diverse learners from non-dominant culture. Additionally, critical pedagogy can be employed to promote democracy, liberation, and participatory learning that transforms the culture of the prison and has implications for urban communities, where many ex-offenders return. This essay will explore the sociopolitical and historical context of prison education and address implications for urban communities, diverse learners, educators, and justice broadly. The learner of my capstone essay is situated as society at large, and policy makers and educators more specifically, as I demonstrate the ways that policies and public perception shape the prison experience and reintegration outcomes for those who are or have been incarcerated. Ultimately, critical pedagogy will yield positive outcomes in terms of rates of recidivism, successful reintegration, and transformation of the inside prison culture that carries over to influence urban communities. As the environment of the prison is educative and breeds violence and oppression, critical pedagogy must transcend this schooling and call for critical thought and liberation. In summation, the essay will address the learner, urban context, and diversity through a critical view of the educational opportunities in the prison systems of the United States, the best practices for prison education, and the implications of critical pedagogy on rates of recidivism, community vitality, and justice.