Breaking Chains, Building Narratives: U.S. Prison Education and Critical Narrative Pedagogy

Francis, Jacob, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Parks, Stephen, University of Virginia

While the promise of prison education is often presented as a novel means to reducing recidivism and promoting social reintegration of incarcerated individuals, this notion is not particularly new. Rather, the earliest of U.S. educational and penological reformers perceived a similar association between criminality and lack of education, a sentiment which has continued into modern discourses of education and penology. However, this continued framing of penal education remains limited in its focus on economic returns and recidivism rates, and has neglected the holistic development of incarcerated individuals and the systemic factors contributing to criminality. Through reassessing the aims and assumptions that have informed the pedagogies of U.S. prisons, a more human-centered approach to prison education which transcends the traditional correctional objectives and instead emphasizes the importance of nurturing incarcerated individuals' voices and fostering community reconnection is needed. By recognizing the inherently dehumanizing nature of incarceration, a rehabilitative and reintegrative pedagogy which considers education as a humanizing process can be proposed. In reorienting prison education towards a more humanitarian and compassionate pedagogy via critical narrative, it is hoped that the broader objectives of both education and penal systems can be better aligned with restorative principles which ultimately contribute to a more just and humane society.

MA (Master of Arts)
Prison, Education, Pedagogy, Incarceration, Penology
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: