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This issue was published on:
June 20, 2023
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Volume 2 · Number 1 · 2023

Volume Two: Call for Submissions

Pedagogies Under Constraint: The Practices of Teaching and Learning in Prison Higher Education

There is no shortage of writing describing the transformative impacts of postsecondary prison-based teaching and learning. Indeed, one need not look far to encounter a collection of transformation-oriented claims about teaching and learning in prison. Higher education in prison is described as liberatory and emancipatory. As critical or radical. As life-changing. As truly transformational. Some of the more commonly represented examples in the literature and scholarship seem to require transformation as part of the work, and the need for a demonstrable change in students and/or instructors. Compounding an absence of nuance, the majority of narratives to which people currently have access are published by non-incarcerated individuals, namely instructors who travel in and out of prisons and document this transformation for readers. 

Experiencing dramatic changes and gaining new insights and perspectives have long been the cornerstones of theories of teaching and learning in education, and particularly theories born of a critical or poststructural tradition. In Teaching to Transgress, for example, bell hooks (1994) describes education as the practice of freedom. She calls for an engaged teaching practice that focuses on well-being and self-actualization that is “healing to the uninformed, unknowing spirit” (p. 19). Enhancing capacities to live full and meaningful lives, education as the practice of freedom is but one of a multitude of approaches that seek to guide people toward critical consciousness. In her letter to Paulo Freire, Michelle Fine (1997) referred to this collective guidance as “connected raindrops of radical consciousness, spread globally” (p. 90).

This Call for Submissions problematizes the prison classroom as a unique site for critical or radical pedagogical work. We invite narratives of fracture, unknowing, discomfort, and failure; written work that challenges neat narratives of transformation or completeness. We invite authors to wrestle with the ambiguity of teaching and learning in prison and provide visions for what could be, how, and with whom. The recent and widespread prevalence of transformation discourses offers us the possibility to question (and complicate) the requirement of radical transformation that is often placed on students. In this light, we must ask: Does the prison classroom require a specific kind of educational practice? What are the theoretical and political issues that a "prison pedagogy" would inevitably carry within itself?

We invite submissions for Volume Two of the Journal of Higher Education in Prison to respond to the following prompt: What are the possibilities and limitations of teaching and learning in prison spaces? This is an expansive call and we encourage authors to think toward futures and urgencies, considering what teaching and learning in higher education in prison could and should look like, feel like, and be, within the many spaces and places that education in prison occurs. We anticipate various angles and topics in response to this prompt, but we are especially interested in submissions that address themes that are currently underrepresented in the higher education in prison literature, which may or may not include: abolition, accommodations, censorship, failure, identity, savorism, trauma, technology, white supremacy, and/or other urgencies. 


Fine, M. (1997). A letter to Paulo. Chapter Five in Counterpoints, Mentoring the mentor: A critical dialogue with Paulo Freire, 89-97.

hooks, b. (2003). Teaching community: A pedagogy of hope. New York: Routledge.

Additional Resources

For inspiration, we encourage authors to explore the publications listed below and/or share them with potential authors. Printed copies for currently incarcerated authors can be requested via: jhep@higheredinprison.org or by using the mailing address at the end of the Call for Submissions. Currently we are able to send 2-3 selected articles (please be clear in your request which 2-3 articles you would like to be sent to you).

Castro, E. L. & Brawn, M. (2017). Why we should be critical of critical pedagogy in prison classrooms: A conversation between an incarcerated student and non-incarcerated teacher. Harvard Educational Review, 87(1), 99-121.

Cedillo, C.V. What does it mean to move?: Race, disability, and critical embodiment pedagogy. Composition Forum 39, .n.p. 

Darder, A. (1991). Culture and Power in the Classroom: A Critical Foundation for Bicultural Education. Praeger Press.

Davis, S.W. & Michaels, B. (2015). Ripping off some room for people to "breathe together”: Peer-to-peer education in prison, Social Justice, 42(2),  (2015), 146-148. 

Erzen, T., Gould M., & Lewen, J. (2019). Equity and excellence in practice: A guide for higher education in prison. Alliance for Higher Education in Prison. https://www.higheredinprison.org/publications/equity-and-excellence-in-practice-report

Ginsburg, R. (Ed.). (2019). Critical perspectives on teaching in prison: Students and instructors on pedagogy behind the wall. Routledge.

Horton, M., Kohl, H.R., and Kohl, J. (1990). The long haul: An autobiography. Teachers College Press. 

Kilgore, J. (2011). Bringing Freire behind the walls: The perils and pluses of critical pedagogy in prison education. Radical Teacher, 50, 57-66.

Malakki, R.B. (2019). An open letter to prison educators. Critical perspectives on teaching in prison: Students and instructors on pedagogy behind the wall. Routledge.

Mayo, C. & Rodrigez, N. R. (Eds). (2019). Queer pedagogies: Theory, practice, politics. Springer Natural.

Miller, T.A. (2012). Encountering Attica: Documentary filmmaking as pedagogical tool. Journal of Legal Education, 62. 231-241. 

Scott, R. (2013). Distinguishing radical teaching from merely having intense experiences while teaching in prison. Radical Teacher, 95, 22-32.

Shipka, J. (2011). Toward a Composition Made Whole. University of Pittsburgh Press. 

Stovall, D. (2005). Critical Race Theory as educational protest: Power and praxis. Counterpoints, 237, 197-211.

Utheim, R. (2016). The case for higher education in prison: Working notes on pedagogy, purpose, and preserving democracy. Social Justice, 43(3), 91-134.

Alliance for Higher Education in Prison
Attn: Journal of Higher Education in Prison
1801 N. Broadway, Suite 417
Denver, CO 80202

Please direct all submission related questions to:

jhep@higheredinprison.org with the subject line “JHEP Submission”.

Relevant web links are as follows:

Journal of Higher Education in Prison website: https://www.higheredinprison.org/journal-of-higher-education-in-prison

Manuscript submission platform Scholastica: https://higheredinprison.scholasticahq.com/