Teaching and Learning Inside: The Transformative Potential of College-in-Prison Programs
Gina Hausknecht, John William King Professor of Literature & Creative Writing
What are prisons for? What should happen to people when they are incarcerated? Since most incarcerated individuals in the U.S. eventually are released, vocational training, GED and higher-education programs were long seen as a way to help them work toward lives that would keep them out of jail. However, tough-on-crime policies have resulted in more punitive sentences and the dismantling of many rehabilitative programs. This four-week forum will explore national and local programs that promote education and the arts in prisons. The first session will introduce college-
in-prison programs, including the pioneering Bard Prison Initiative, and the debate about prison education. In week two, we will take a closer look at the Liberal Arts Beyond Bars college-in-prison program at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (IMCC) in Coralville and hear from incarcerated students and those who work with them. Week three’s session will focus on Shakespeare prison programs; we will view excerpts from the documentary “Shakespeare Behind Bars” and learn about the presenter’s experiences teaching a linked Coe and IMCC Shakespeare course. The final session will examine other kinds of prison arts programs. We will view and discuss artwork by incarcerated individuals and consider the potential and pitfalls of arts, college and other rehabilitative programs in prisons. As we consider the challenges and opportunities of teaching and learning in prison, this forum will work to come to a better understanding of what college-in-prison programs offer incarcerated individuals and the society of which they are a part.