Ripple Effects of Higher Education in Spaces of Incarceration: My Unfolding Conceptual Framework

Location: Jepson 122
Date: Sat, April 27
Time: 11:10 AM - 11:30 AM

I use intersections of restorative justice and critical theories and praxes to explore the transformative ripple effects of voluntary higher education in spaces of incarceration. Research collaborators, alumni, cautioned me to engage reflexively with and remain mindful of my position: I am a white, woman researcher with no criminal conviction history. My presentation will showcase ways that I engage with the historical contexts of the US prison industrial complex and the effective and transformative anti-recidivism intervention of voluntary higher education in spaces of incarceration, before I begin to collect and share personal stories of alumni, my dissertation's main focus.


It is impossible to understand American crime policy without appreciating racism's enduring role (Forman, 2017, p. 12). The US criminal justice system incarcerates nearly 2.3 million adults. Black Americans make up 40% of the incarcerated population (Kaeble, 2018), which is a disproportionate number to the US general population, where Black Americans are only 13% of the adult population (Jones, 2018). One in four adults in the US has a criminal conviction history and each week, on average, 10,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons (Rodriguez & Emsellem, 2011). The national recidivism rate is 37% (Pew Center, 2018). Studies often focus on the financial cost to the taxpayer of increased incarceration costs and highlight the return on investment of anti-racism interventions. One such intervention, voluntary higher education, is found to decrease reincarceration costs. For every one-dollar spent on education programs, between four and five dollars are saved on incarceration costs and with every advanced training and degree a person who is incarcerated achieves, their likelihood of recidivating decreases significantly (RAND, 2013). Forman's cautionary comment begins my research into mass incarceration and anti-recidivism interventions. By using the intersections of restorative justice and critical theories and praxes, I explore the transformative ripple effects of voluntary higher education in spaces of incarceration. Early collaborators in my research, alumni, have cautioned me to engage reflexively with and remain mindful of my position: I am a white, woman researcher with no criminal conviction history. My presentation will showcase ways in which I am engaging with the historical contexts of the US prison industrial complex and the effective and transformative anti-recidivism intervention of voluntary higher education in spaces of incarceration, before I begin to collect and share the personal stories of alumni, which, ultimately, will be the main focus of my dissertation.

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