Fostering Academic Success Among Diverse Communities of Male Offenders in Correctional Institutions, The

Unity in Community: Fostering Academic Success Among Diverse Communities of Male Offenders in Correctional Institutions, The

Rose, Jane E


Two post-secondary correctional educators discuss how they have enhanced the rehabilitation of a diverse population of adult male offenders, including whites, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, by incorporating diversity initiatives into their instruction and curricula at two correctional facilities in Northwest Indiana. One way is to form moral communities, like those prescribed by Clifford Edwards, by fostering collaboration through teamwork and by providing opportunities for offender students to contribute to their academic community as, for example, academic tutors and computer lab monitors. Another way is to hold offender students to high learning outcomes and to facilitate their learning by treating them respectfully and fairly and by teaching them how to interact successfully and democratically in an often hostile, yet culturally diversified, environment/community. Finally, a liberal arts curriculum enhances the development of critical thinking skills and values for the global workplace.

“They who open a school door close a prison.”

-Victor Hugo

Most books and articles on multicultural education center on the traditional college or university setting. As post-secondary correctional educators, we bring attention to an often neglected or overlooked setting-the college classroom in correctional facilities. Studies have long shown the benefits of post-secondary education in rehabilitating offenders and reducing recidivism (Jenkins, Steurer, & Pendry, 1995; McCollum, 1994; Taylor, 1992). We have enhanced that rehabilitation by incorporating diversity concerns into our instruction and curricula at two correctional facilities in Northwest Indiana: Westville Correctional Facility (WCF), a medium- to maximum-security prison, and Lakeside Correctional Facility (LCF), a minimum-security prison. Maxilyn Voss (MV), who holds a specialist degree in education administration from Ball State University, served as the coordinator of the Purdue University North Central Post-Secondary Correctional Education Program at the Lakeside Correctional Facility in Michigan City, Indiana from August 2000 to January 2002 and as a part-time instructor taught business and technical writing at the Westville Correctional Facility in Westville, Indiana. Dr. Jane E. Rose (JER), associate professor of English at Purdue University North Central, has taught composition at both facilities and courses in American literature at the Westville Correctional Facility. In our essay, we highlight components of the PUNC Post-Secondary Correctional Educational Program and discuss our roles and strategies in creating community and unity among diverse groups of male offenders.

Purdue University North Central Post-Secondary Correctional Education Program

Purdue University North Central (PUNC), a regional commuter campus in Northwest Indiana, within the Purdue University system, offers a unique opportunity to two correctional facilities within the Indiana Department of Correction. Since its implementation in 1985, a diverse population of male felons, convicted of various violent and nonviolent crimes and ranging from 18 to 60 years in age, have enrolled in courses leading to associate’s degrees in Business or Organizational Leadership and Supervision and bachelor’s degrees in either Business or Liberal Studies. The emphasis for the first semesters in the program is to complete a 27-credit-hour certificate, providing credentials for offenders who are released before completing a formal degree program. It creates a more marketable student upon release and also provides an intermediate goal for students participating in the program for longer periods of time. Purdue University admissions and academic standards are enforced, and admission requirements (all candidates must have acquired GED proficiency or a high school diploma), learning tools (textbooks, auxiliary materials, computers, etc.), and course outlines are identical to those used at the PUNC campus.

Through its post-secondary correctional education program, PUNC fulfills part of its mission to serve the citizens of counties within Indiana. It is an educational tool designed to reclaim lost manpower to the community through academics of rigorous intellectual discipline guiding offenders to redirect and renew the quality of their lives through the discipline of a trained mind. The PUNC program prepares all learners for life in a democratic society by providing them with key concepts from all academic disciplines, and it instills in them a profound sense of control and empowerment over the future course of their lives. The college program strives to encourage participants to influence positively the behavior of other offenders; to serve as positive peer role models (“inspirations,” “precedents”) for other offenders; and to enhance their social interaction between racial and ethnic populations in order to reduce conflict among the diverse subgroups in the penal society.

Recognition ceremonies for outstanding educational achievements (Chancellor’s List, Dean’s List, Semester Honors, Outstanding Adult Learner, literary awards) are conducted at the correctional facility sites, and occur at the conclusion of each fall and spring semester. The honorees are provided a lavish dinner and presented awards by the University. Graduates are bestowed the honor of a formal university graduation ceremony complete usually with the President and Board of Regents from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, the PUNC Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Registrar, other University dignitaries, correctional education administrators, and the faculty members present.

The Faculty

The instructors in the PUNC Post-Secondary Correctional Education Program come from a variety of occupations and experiences. Most are part-time instructors who have retired from industry or public education, and some are consultants with private organizations, and are contracted by the University to fill positions especially for the off-campus sites. All faculty members must hold at least a master’s degree as the minimal credential to teach at PUNC. The remaining teaching staff is comprised of full-time, tenure-track faculty (only a few hold doctoral degrees in their fields of expertise). Of this teaching force, many have taught in the prison for several years while others have the advantage of only a short exposure to this unique environment. The teaching staff usually consists predominantly of Anglo instructors and a few minorities.

In their roles as teachers and representatives of the University, instructors have an opportunity to form close relations with the offender students. On the whole, they focus on the offender students’ best interests and look at them as highly motivated and as having a healthy sense of realism about education. Instructors often consider themselves “tight-rope walkers.” As indicated by one veteran instructor, “our allegiances are first and foremost with the offender students and the welfare of the program. Our position taken is not a middle position, but one that favors the offender in a direct educational posture. Wholly, our teaching styles and class organization are very similar to what is done on campus, but there is a tendency for our teaching to be more personal, forceful, and enthusiastic in the prison environment than on the university campus.”

The Students

Our correctional students represent a number of racial, ethnic, linguistic, and social class groups. They come from various geographic locations, in large cities and small rural areas. Many are from economically poor families; others are from solidly middle- and upper-class families. Many are educationally disadvantaged; others have earned college degrees. In spite of vast differences in their experiences and backgrounds, most offender students share one characteristic that may not be true of their peers: they are successful. These students learn how to develop both academic skills and positive attitudes about themselves and about the value of education. They generally maintain good scholastic records; most have hopes of receiving advanced degrees; and most have positive perceptions of lifelong learning opportunities.

Our Positions as Educators and Leaders

In helping offender students to succeed academically and socially and to prepare them to acclimate to a global society upon their release, we must address our positions as correctional educators and leaders. We have adapted the following questions from ones regarding the role of educators at traditional colleges by Caryn McTighe Musil (1996), Senior Research Associate with the Association of American Colleges and Universities:

* What do correctional students need from us?

* What does our nation need from correctional educators?

* How can society benefit from correctional education that embraces diversity initiatives?

Correctional students need teachers and leaders who are committed to rehabilitating offenders and who believe in education as a necessary component of rehabilitation and renewed quality of life. They also need teachers and leaders who are experts in their discipline, who can offer challenging curriculum and assignments, and who can create a learning environment that fosters respect between the teacher and all students. The nation needs correctional educators who prepare offenders to be productive tax-paying citizens after their release, thereby reducing recidivism rates. Society can benefit greatly from correctional education that embraces diversity initiatives, which help offenders to live in a democratic and global society, to appreciate people of various races and ethnic backgrounds, and to understand that crime and violence are not the answers to our problems.

In a prison environment often resistant to the betterment and education of offenders, a cultural climate conducive to learning must be established before transformation of the curriculum to meet diversity initiatives can take place. Effective strategies include forming moral communities, holding offender students to high learning outcomes, teaching them to interact successfully and democratically in an often hostile yet culturally diversified environment, and helping them to acquire skills and values for the global workplace through a liberal arts curriculum. MV will discuss her role as an administrator in transforming the environment and curriculum, and JER will highlight the instructor’s role. Through personal and anecdotal experience, both show how educational theories may be practiced successfully.

Diversity and the Correctional Environment: The Administrator’s Role by MV

Coming to Purdue University North Central in January 1998 as an adjunct faculty member assigned to teach technical writing and business communication classes at the campus and also at the Westville Correctional Facility site, I was excited and a little apprehensive. Only a few years before, I was a veteran public elementary school classroom teacher and seasoned public school administrator. My association with university-level education was primarily as a student, not as an instructor. All I could do was give it my best shot.

My first day at WCF was filled with anticipation of the type of students I was to receive. The class roster indicated 23 registered for my Technical Report Writing 220 course. I thought this was fairly tolerable considering my campus class consisted of 27 students. However, the classroom assigned was considerably small and cramped to accommodate such a large number of students, especially since I incorporate seminar style teaching methods requiring small group interaction. This was not to be. I pondered my dilemma and asked the program administrator if another classroom was available. My colleague across the hall with only 12 students offered to switch classrooms with me, so I began to settle in and prepare for the day’s lesson and activities. As the students entered the classroom, I noticed a look of apprehension on their faces. I immediately greeted each with a smile and a “welcome to Tech Writing 220.” They took their seats, roll was called, and I proceeded to go over the syllabus and course objectives. I then explained that I was eager to obtain a working partnership with such a diverse group of determined individuals and that my purpose was to diligently make a positive contribution to their education in order for them to obtain a better quality of life as productive citizens upon their release. They seemed to buy into my strategy because nobody got up to leave. We proceeded successfully that first day.

As the semester progressed and assignments were given, I noticed the students seemed frustrated. They soon expressed great concern about the noise in their dormitories, the lack of study space, and the inadequate and inaccessible resources and the time restrictions of utilizing the computer lab and library. They also complained emphatically about having to ask for paper to do assignments and having to write compositions and reports in long hand because access to typewriters and computer terminals was virtually impossible unless they were enrolled in a computer literacy class. They asked for my assistance. At this request I decided to create a questionnaire and to survey the college students and the faculty for input to provide ways to improve the program and the teaching and learning conditions in this particular environment. I received approval from the program administrator and the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs to conduct the surveys. I assisted in compiling the results for the needs assessment and in preparing the report document for the University accreditation review. Based on the respondents’ input, which stressed the need for a more accommodating learning structure, positive program restructuring began.

Because of my experience in academic advising and educational leadership, and after the University extended its program services to Lakeside Correctional Facility (LCF) in August 2000, I was promoted to a full-time administrative position in the Office of Academic Affairs as Lakeside’s new program coordinator. My primary focus was on establishing a quality effective learning environment very similar to a traditional college campus. So, based on my experiences in educational leadership and in the position as a key change agent, I brought to the prison facility and correctional education a dedication to promoting an effective learning and work environment that provides positive learning opportunities for all offender students to embrace the challenge of life-long learning and personal growth through active, collaborative planning, preparation, participation, and perseverance. To meet this goal, I utilized resources and explored educational issues as they play out in all settings. I strived to provide a milieu in which the dignity and worth of each individual and differing views are respected and personal growth is sought.

As the academic leader, I cannot undertake the task of creating an effective educational community by myself. I must enlist the help of all stakeholders by cultivating productive relationships with them. Through collaborative efforts of teachers, correctional personnel, and students, who always keep the focus of success at the forefront, the best possible education for all learners will be realized. Education must be viewed as authentic based on real tasks that have a relationship to one’s professional and personal life. Curriculum, instruction, and assessment that are authentic involve performances and products that transfer into the actual world of citizenship as well as future scholarship.

Public opinion regarding the necessity of college programs in prison is extremely negative. This perceived public negativity has been responsible for dramatically curtailing inmate access to post-secondary education during the past several years (Werner, 1990). The prevailing theme seems to be “Why educate prisoners?” John Linton (1998), as state director of correctional education at the Maryland Department of Education, responded to this frequently asked question:

We educate inmates in prison so that they will be something other than inmates during subsequent phases of their lives. Offenders come to prison with much less education than the general population. This lower education level did not compel these persons to commit crimes, but it is a factor in the criminal’s decision-making process. It creates a context in that he or she has much to lose. Also, lack of education often is associated with lack of regard for self, manifested in limited respect for others and institutions (p. 18).

As a post-secondary correctional educator, I firmly concur with Linton that education, regardless of the level, is the essence of life, is power, and is an opportunity for an improved lifestyle. It is an opportunity to turn a negative experience such as incarceration into a positive experience such as rehabilitation. After all, learning institutions educate and socialize the nation’s people.

Prison environments form students’ opinions about the larger society and their own futures. Therefore, the learning institution, in partnership with State Departments of Correction, becomes a moral community. It is then that in correctional facilities the kind of moral reform that is needed is educational, and according to Linton (1998), “involves destruction of hideous economic conditions and of the deplorable cultural squalor and ignorance that go with them” (p. 18). To be a moral community, the learning environment should possess four attributes as prescribed by Clifford Edwards (2000), professor of education at Illinois State University and Brigham Young University.

First of all, the moral community should “encourage genuine dialogue among all members” (Edwards, 2000, p. 39). Students generally have more meaningful interactions with their peers than with their teachers. These peer interactions may lead to greater divisiveness in the community rather than greater community affiliation and commitment. Without appropriate input and guidance by professional staff, student liaisons commonly lack justifiable community purposes and coherent direction, and may result in exclusiveness.

Second, “[m]oral communities depend extensively on rational inquiry, a condition necessary for community survival” (Edwards, 2000, p. 39). An inquiry orientation helps communities deal with unexpected events and devise new modes of operation as needed. This can only be accomplished in an atmosphere of trust and commitment. All members must feel that associates have their best interest at heart and that everyone is interested in all community members doing well.

Third, “[m]oral communities provide each individual sufficient freedom to work out personal agendas within the context of community life” (Edwards, 2000, p. 39). These individuals seek not only to preserve their own integrity, but also to promote the welfare of others. They value and act not only upon what they find personally satisfying, but also upon what contributes to and strengthens the entire community. This is social justice, and the interests of all members are protected and supported, for in safeguarding the individual, the community fortifies itself.

Fourth, “[m]oral communities are democratic” (Edwards, 2000, p. 40). But democratic purposes cannot be achieved unless students act upon their privilege of moral agency and learn how to explicitly articulate their independence with the social values and expectations of the community. This is strategically important in attaining a real sense of belonging and acquiring a desire for undertaking a responsible role in community life.

To establish these moral communities, I fostered collaboration and built spirited teams by involving everyone in the process. I facilitated strength in others, making each person feel capable and powerful to take ownership for the group’s success and to demonstrate a profound trust in and respect for their abilities. For example, I empowered offender students, based on their qualifications and talents, to serve their community as academic tutors, computer lab monitors and facilitators, and teacher assistants. So that offenders can be both students and workers, I coordinated their work schedules with their course schedules by offering classes morning, afternoon, and night. These strategies demonstrated to them that they have a crucial role in community matters, assured them that they are wanted and needed, and helped them to come to believe that they can make a significant difference. Another example of integrated community services I used is through the team teaching and the Developmental Studies “Bridge” Program. Teams of instructors and student tutors coordinated activities and remedial instruction delivery techniques to a defined group of students needing a “tune up” of reading, writing, math, study, and critical thinking skills before entering into the more rigorous required core courses of the degree program. I, in collaboration with faculty and correctional personnel, facilitated external integration of the learning community by inviting guest speakers, choral groups, musicians, and others from the larger external community to further cultivate the transfer of the learning process. This unified cooperation promotes higher achievement, higher-quality reasoning, more frequent gains in process, and greater accomplishment of success.

Purdue University North Central is an extension campus of Purdue University, a champion Big Ten University, where its spirit and tradition play a key role in shaping the higher education experience of the correctional community stakeholders. This spirit and tradition carry with it the obligation that our post-secondary correctional program’s faculty and students will do the best they can. Therefore, to foster motivation and enthusiasm in keeping our spirit and tradition alive and to strengthen the moral community, I incorporated motivational slogans (challenges) replicating messages of pride, self-esteem, perseverance, dedication, and integrity: “The Great Only Accept the Best,” “Best of the Champions,” “Dare to Achieve and Succeed,” to name a few. And, since each semester brought with it new challenges and unique opportunities for all of us to grow intellectually, culturally, and personally, I carried the implications further by presenting motivational speeches during the faculty and student orientation sessions in order to spur these groups toward successful victories. I emphasized that it is reassuring to work with dedicated faculty and students who see a challenge in their potential to become the best they can, and to achieve this goal, my speech content reinforced the messages of the slogans. For example, one I often gave the students describes the challenges of four R’s and one T as prescribed by Robert Shockley and his associates, Robert Tocha and Francis Tracy (1992), all practicing consultants in education administration throughout the state of Maryland:

* RESPONSIBILITY. You are given choices in the courses you take and the degree to which you involve yourself in your studies. The choices you make have a lot to say about you and will shape the education you receive. In large measure, you are judged as a student and as a person in terms of how you meet your obligations.

* RESPECT. This is of paramount importance. If you are going to prove yourself a winner in this college program, you are going to have to demonstrate respect-for yourself, respect for the rights of others, and respect for property, public and private. At this institution, courtesy must always be the watchword. There is no place for the angry word or hostile gesture. No excuse justifies acts of rudeness or defiance. There will be many times when instructors and administrators will give you directions-they are given for good reasons and should not be seen as points of public debate.

* RESOURCEFULNESS. Getting the job done despite the obstacles or the odds is what separates the exceptional from the “run of the mill,” the winners from those who only watch the winners. It’s easy to find excuses in obstacles. Winners view roadblocks as challenges to be overcome. Resourcefulness is one characteristic of all winners.

* RESPONSlVENESS. Winners see problems in terms of possible solutions. Winners also see the problem and have ideas about the solutions. What sets them apart is that they tackle the problem and work toward a resolution. You cannot talk your way to success; you must work at it.

* TEAMWORK. Many problems demand group solutions. We all know what it is to be a member of a sports team or a lab group-to get things done, we have to work together. Your colleagues need to work as a team if you are to be successful. Team spirit can also spark the individual to best efforts. Just being a part of a winning team spurs each member on to better his effort. Be part of the team-actively participate, (pp. 309-10)

I encouraged the faculty at the beginning of their class periods and throughout the semester to do the following:

. . . Tell your students what it is going to take to achieve and succeed, believe in their abilities and the possibilities that the future holds for those who set goals and strive for excellence through the blood, sweat, and tears of hard work; that when one gives only the minimum, one receives only the minimum in return.

… Teach them to weather adversity-that “no challenge is insurmountable, no problem so overwhelming, no mistake final. The true measure of success is often seen in how adversity is handled. It is easy to keep working when everything is going our way, but it takes strong character to sail against the wind” (Shockley, et al., 1992, p. 309).

. . . Remind your students that this is the championship season. Emphasize continually to them that “education is the door to their future, that reading, writing, and reasoning are the keys to that door, and determination the force that turns the key, unlocking their future” (Shockley, et al., 1992, p. 310).

To both groups, I concluded with a statement that reflects a championship season for all:

. . . At the end of the semester, if we can look back and visualize that we have achieved the goals we set, then this will have been a victory for us and success will be ours, and with it the designation: Best of the Champions.

The PUNC Post-Secondary Correctional Education Program itself has taken on a leadership role in setting the tone for the whole curriculum, the whole individual, the whole purpose of a quality and sustaining life for society. Our sense of direction and focus, influenced by our values, permits the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Assuming that the dominance of learning is to discipline the human race as intelligent and responsible beings, then we must further implement the primary objectives of education: to indoctrinate wonderment in life and to illuminate that everyone is a unique and important asset to society. Our quest of knowledge must include ongoing dialogue with the people who travel with us at the heart of our heroic journey, our students. Offender students are extraordinary teachers. They speak. They write. They constantly tell us how our expectations, objectives, curriculum, and instructional strategies affect them. Therefore, as post-secondary correctional educators and a unified learning community, we must look to these students to tell us why learning takes place and why it does not. Our students are key sources for helping us identify what needs to be done, but too often we forget to ask them, and we also have a tendency not to listen to the important messages they bring.

Our challenge as correctional educators and leaders is to, as stated eloquently by Renate Caine and Geoffrey Caine (1997), professors of education and learning consultants at California State University, “identify a set of beliefs that are sufficiently broad to allow for unity and diversity. We need to work together and to respect each other. We know that to do otherwise, to attempt to impose control on the dynamic processes that are taking place, will lead to consequences both unpredictable and unsettling. Transformation cannot be imposed, nor in times of turbulence, can it be prevented” (pp. 256-57).

It is further stipulated that the realities of a globally interrelated and culturally diverse world of the new millennium require an education for all our students that will enable them to view themselves as, according to Charlotte Anderson, President of Education for Global Involvement, and her associates, Susan Nicklas and Agnes Crawford (1994), HUMAN BEINGS whose home is PLANET EARTH who are citizens of a MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY living in an increasingly INTERRELATED WORLD and who LEARN, CARE, THINK, CHOOSE, and ACT to celebrate life productively and to meet the global challenges confronting humankind, (p. 5)

When we emphasize these messages in the lessons we design, we help our students to recognize the commonalities in all human beings, to become “effective caretakers or our planet, to honor human diversity, and to work together for the benefit of all” (Anderson, et al., 1994, p. 5).

Our offender students must be motivated to internalize the concepts and values of humanity and community and to demonstrate those values in their daily existence. They must acquire a sense of pride about the responsibilities of their productive citizenship in a global society, and their knowledge and desires must be encouraged by thoughtful, critical scrutiny. “They must acknowledge their newly acquired power and believe in their efficacy” (Anderson, et al., 1994, p. 5).

Diversity and the Correctional Environment: The Instructor’s Role by JER

In August 1997, I began my tenure-track position as assistant professor of English at Purdue University North Central. When I first learned that I would be teaching at the Westville Correctional Facility (WCF) about a week before the fall semester started, I looked forward to the challenge of teaching in such an environment. I chose the teaching profession because I wanted to help people; therefore, my goal was to do the same for my new group of students.

During the prison orientation tour of the education building that housed classrooms and a one-room library, I viewed my assignment, not with fear, but with anxiety about how I was going to provide a course in research essay writing without adequate library facilities. I had little time to prepare and despair. I was also appalled by the treatment of offenders. As I passed offenders, students in the GED program, in the hallways, I often heard correctional officers ordering them to tuck in their shirts and pull up their pants (the trend is to “sag” the pants). I had never witnessed grown men being treated like children. Because of this initial impression of offender/correctional officer interaction, I decided that my classroom would have to be a sort of Utopia in contrast to the demeaning prison environment. My classroom would have to encourage mutual respect between professor and students of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds and among all students, foster democratic values, and establish high expectations of student conduct and academic achievement if I were to build the kind of moral community defined by Clifford Edwards. Richard Arbenz (1994), a former student of the Soledad Prison College Program in California, states, “The coercive and authoritarian milieu of the prison emphasizes submissiveness over thinking, and creates an environment antithetical to learning” (p. 30). He calls for the reformation of prisons to recognize the human dignity and self worth of individuals and to encourage “the full development of human personality” (p. 31). Recognizing the self worth of individuals and encouraging their development has been the philosophy of my Utopian classroom within prison walls. As I have found after teaching at correctional institutions, offender students value highly a classroom environment where they can both voice and debate their opinions.

Building a Utopian environment and moral community was not so easy as I discovered my first semester. What I mean by Utopia is the type of classroom atmosphere conducive to learning in the traditional college setting-one that fosters respect, expects appropriate conduct from students, and provides a stimulating curriculum. This is Utopian in a correctional setting, especially in those prisons whose primary goal is to punish and belittle inmates-not to rehabilitate and build self-esteem. As one of my students, Mr. W stated, “College has been a brief reprieve from the insanity that is found throughout the rest of the facility. It becomes difficult every time I leave the school and go back to being a prisoner the rest of the day.” Correctional personnel, especially corrections officers, may resent offenders having the opportunity to earn a two- or four-year college degree when they themselves or their children may not have such opportunities (Jones & d’Errico, 1994). In addition, corrections staff often view offenders in college programs as more outspoken and rebellious and therefore less manageable. As a result, such offenders are more likely to be harassed by correctional officers (Jones & d’Errico, 1994). Correctional staff at all levels would rather the offenders be working on the prison grounds or in the prison industries. The PUNC Post-Secondary Correctional Program at WCF has lost potential students to prison industries where they can make, for example, duck decoys for at least $7 an hour, of which they receive only 40% of earnings.

A key element in constructing a Utopian classroom and moral community in the correctional institution is establishing trust between teacher and students. University and DOC administrators advised instructors new to the correctional facility not to ask students any questions about procedures-indeed not to trust them because they are convicts. Unfortunately this advice stayed with me and made for an awkward situation the first day of class. For example, I started to ask students something about procedures when I hesitated because of the warning. Perceiving my distrust, one student blurted out, “She doesn’t trust us already!” I saw the disappointment in his eyes. Here was someone else judging them. I knew I was in trouble if I were ever to establish rapport with my students, so I decided to be honest and stated, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I was told not to trust you, and it’s hard to get what I was told out of my mind. We’ll have to work at earning each other’s trust.” At least we had begun a genuine dialogue crucial to the establishment of the moral community.

Creating a respectful classroom is very important in teaching diverse groups of male offenders. My first semester I addressed my students by first name as I do my campus students, and they were expected to address me as Dr. Rose or Professor Rose. But to combat an environment that serves to belittle the individual, to break his will and spirit, and to reduce his self-esteem, I realized that addressing students by Mr. and the last name helped to show them that I viewed them as human beings worthy of higher education and that I was there to help them earn one. It also helped to establish civility and proper decorum in the classroom. Soon my students were addressing each other as Mr. So and So instead of by their prison nicknames they often use outside of class. Respect is crucial in building unity among diverse students to erode class and racial barriers and again to construct the kind of moral community Edwards prescribes.

Another effective way to earn respect from the students is to provide a thorough and challenging course syllabus and schedule clearly stating course objectives, requirements, and expectations. Providing a syllabus may seem obvious since on the university campus all instructors are required to have one; however, during my teaching career, I have seen many one-page syllabuses that inadequately explain course content, requirements, and policies. In contrast, my syllabuses are usually at least six pages. I cover the same material in courses on campus. Student offenders admire and respect instructors who provide rigor in the classroom and who come to class prepared. Most correctional students expect a rigorous curriculum equal to that on the college campus as they want to feel great accomplishment after having completed the course. Research studies have linked educational achievement to the enhancement of offenders’ self-esteem, and ultimately to the lowering of recidivism, but the degree of self-esteem attained may depend on the instructor (Hancock & Sharp, 1993). Daniel Lawrence (1994) concurs that the instructor’s role in building offenders’ self-esteem is paramount: “Inmates have notoriously low self-esteem, so it is a task of the first magnitude for an instructor to convince them they can succeed at college-level work. It is a nurturing process in the beginning, reemphasizing the importance of the student-teacher relationship in the first few semesters of post-secondary study” (p. 44). My first semester, I soon realized this and assumed the roles of both nurturer and facilitator of learning.

In fact, on teaching evaluations and during discussions, correctional students have cited the abilities to motivate, to nurture, and to inspire students as key qualities of an excellent teacher. In their view, excellent teachers, masters of their field of expertise, communicate effectively and use a variety of teaching methods. They provide challenging curricula and are tough and demanding yet reasonable in their expectations regarding student performance. They evaluate students’ work fairly according to established standards and do not award undeserving or easy A’s because they feel sorry for their students. An excellent teacher is a dedicated professional who truly enjoys teaching, who conveys a positive attitude, and who establishes rapport easily with offender students, thereby earning their respect.

To determine what offender students view as effective teaching in a correctional environment and what strategies may aid “rational inquiry” and “genuine dialogue” among students, essential components of the moral community (Edwards, 2000), one semester I surveyed informally students in three writing classes: English Composition I, English Composition II, and Technical Report Writing. The students had the option of providing their names, and a few did. I asked them to respond to the following prompt: “Describe the style of teaching that you think works best in a correctional environment. Please explain why.” Their responses are quite telling and revealing. I quote liberally some of them, and I also indicate race to show that despite racial differences correctional students tend to agree not only on the qualities of an excellent teacher and but also on the best teaching style in a correctional setting.

Best Teaching Style for a Correctional Environment From Mr. O (Hispanic):

I think the type of teaching that works best in a correctional environment is the more traditional, no nonsense style of old. The students in this program tend to be spoiled or given an easier curriculum. The prisoner students need a tougher and more serious learning environment so that they can be prepared to overcome societal prejudices. They are almost obligated to be smarter and tougher than the traditional student on the streets. Also, prisoner students tend to try to get away with an easy curriculum. Teachers need to be firm, but inspirational. It’s for their own good.

From Mr. D (White):

The learning environment for those who wish to learn must be maintained. It may require facilitating the removal of students who detract from such an environment for the benefit of the instructors and students alike. No sympathy-No pitty [sic]-No compromise in standards! Accommodate only those with a desire to learn. Incarceration is only temporary for most students. The world in which we will have to compete does not compromise because we have been prisoners. In fact, it discriminates against us. The standards for prison students must be as great or greater for this reason. Prepare us to compete in a world that will greet us with certain hostility and skepticism.

From Mr. G (White):

An autocratic style would most likely work best within a correctional environment because control of classroom discussions can easily get out of hand. Some students are also more likely to cause or create distractions as well. However, an open mind on the teacher’s part must be kept. There must be some type of understanding of the situation in which we live, (e.g. study areas, living areas, available resources, etc.). Because there are some students who wish not to learn, but just get through the program, and there are those who wish to learn all they can. It is the students who wish to learn all they can that should only be considered when making any adjustments to class schedule or assignments.

From Anonymous:

Very firm. Discipline, along with high standards. To be constructive without criticism. The style of teaching that I see works best is to maintain consistency.

From Mr. S (African American):

Being able to tolerate different attitudes and understand the situation at hand. Treat inmates as if they are real people instead of crash dummies. In other words treat them with respect and they will give respect back. Ensure guys or inmates that in order to achieve they must proceed to educate themselves for society when they return.

From Mr. Z (Hispanic):

It has been my observation, being a student in a correctional facility a teacher must have a unique method of teaching. Teaching in a correctional facility requires a teacher to be able to be flexable [sic] taking into account the restrictions that are demanded.

From Anonymous:

Most people in prison are quitters-Most see working as being “establishment” (even school work) and use school as a way of avoiding working in prison industries-but these people have no intention of using anything they learn (if they learn anything). Teacher should find the few who are interested and/or are truly trying to overcome bad life habits and focus on them-ignore the rest. To do otherwise is a waste of time and resources.

From Mr. T (Native American):

I believe teaching style must change to meet the need of the class. In this environment, one must be forceful and demanding concerning class material. To assign topics that are disliked is a very good impetus to creative thought.

These comments attest to the fact that in working with diverse groups of male offenders, the correctional educator must be demanding yet caring, motivational, and empowering. In their view, an excellent educator in a correctional environment is one who is an expert in the field and truly enjoys teaching and working with offenders.

Most importantly, the correctional educator must be able to recognize potential talent and nurture it and must never give up on the student. I remember the day Mr. R, with shaved head and scowling face, strolled into my classroom and sat toward the back of the room. He listened intently, but he never cracked a smile during our class discussions. The day finally arrived when I conducted conferences with the students to help them revise their first essays responding to the topic of respect. Mr. R sat down by my desk not knowing what to expect. To his surprise, I pointed out the strengths of the piece, but I said it was still a diamond in the rough and suggested ways to polish it. He wrote that he respected no one-not even himself, for he had failed to protect his sister from being raped by their stepfather. On the day the final version of the essay was due, he had no paper to submit.

“Where is your essay?” I inquired.

“I tore it up because the guards harassed me, and I got angry, ” he replied.

I emphatically admonished him. “Don’t ever tear up a piece of your writing. When you do that, you lose it forever. Also, you gave the guards what they wanted. They want you to become frustrated and quit. Now I want to see the essay next week.”

Mr. R produced the essay, which eventually won first place in the campus writing contest that year and was published in PUNC’s literary journal. Another essay written for the class won a prize the following year. Mr. R took two other courses with me, and I continually worked with him on his writing. I also encouraged him to work on controlling his anger, for pent-up emotions from his past and his incarceration plagued him. Mr. R, who came from a family of drug addicts and criminals, confided to me that I was the first person to recognize him as an individual with talent and potential. As he put it, I “was not afraid to reach into the muck and mire that had consumed his life, and pull his head back above the surface.” Mr. R now has plans to become a journalist.

As several of the students surveyed pointed out, some instructors tend to simplify the curriculum or make material easier, and many offenders want easy courses so that they can earn A’s and take the easy route to a degree and time reductions to their sentences. According to Osa D. Coffey (1994), a consultant for education and criminal justice, a common criticism of post-secondary education programs is that they do not demand as much from inmates as they do from students on campus and that they rely too heavily on “second-class instructors,” “adjuncts who would never get college teaching jobs elsewhere” (p. 82). Why do some instructors lower standards and practically give away grades? Some part-time instructors may be teaching outside their expertise and may not be trained educators. They simply do not know how to devise challenging coursework and assignments. Others fear confrontation if they award low grades. Some want to be the offenders’ friend and to be popular and well liked. Coffey (1994) has noted the problem of grade inflation in correctional programs primarily because instructors use grades to “motivate” or “pacify” inmates instead of assigning grades as indicators of achievement (p. 82).

Fairness in evaluation of work tends to be a major concern of correctional students, and offender perception of unfairness can jeopardize the moral community, especially the trust established between teacher and student. Offender students are highly competitive in and outside the classroom, often comparing each other’s grades on papers to make sure the instructor has graded them fairly and equally. They also compare the grading practices of various instructors in the college program. Because the offenders are housed together in dormitories designated for those enrolled in the college program, it is easy for them to discuss and compare each other’s work and the evaluation of it. Grade appeals are more likely to result in correctional facilities because of the competition and constant comparison and scrutiny of grades. For this reason, it is imperative that instructors be clear and consistent in evaluation practices. I have found that in the teaching of composition, for example, it is wise to stipulate the grading criteria of each assignment so that students can check to see if their writing meets the criteria before submission.

My first semester (fall 1997) teaching at WCF, I was caught off guard (no pun intended) by an offender student’s disgruntled remark about my favoring students of “lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” as he put it. I had just returned a set of essays, and this student was unhappy with his grade and my constructive yet critical comments. Primarily this student had a problem with using too many big words that obscured the clarity of his sentences, and he arrogantly used such words in class in an attempt to show off his intelligence and put himself above the others. His accusations puzzled me since in my previous 18 years of teaching my students had commented on course evaluations that my grading was tough but fair, so I decided to address the issue. I needed to quash any perceptions that I was unfair or biased if I were to establish trust and success with both current and future students; therefore, I gave a short speech. In brief, I explained to them that my comments on their papers were meant to aid the process of revision. I stressed that in no way were my intentions ever to treat students as dumb, as though they had no original ideas or thoughts as was suggested to me by one of their classmates who need not be named. I hoped that my comments would encourage them to keep writing and to keep sharpening their writing skills. In no way would I ever want to discourage or offend anyone, for that would deter one’s thinking, learning, and writing processes. More importantly, uncalled for destructive comments could impede a student’s motivation and harm a student’s self-worth, and that I would most certainly never ever want to do. I genuinely stated that I hoped that my course and instruction had been beneficial to them. Students applauded after the speech. I needed to send a strong message about my intentions and integrity, and their applause signaled that I had succeeded. I had maintained the anonymity of the complaining student, but I am sure students figured out who made the comments. At WCF, there is no privacy or confidentiality, for the grape vine reigns.

I worked on my relationship with this student, who was one of the most motivated and brightest students I have ever taught at the correctional facility. To help him improve his style of writing and to understand how to use the best words, not necessarily the most difficult or obscure vocabulary, I gave him copies of two essays discussing such matters, one by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., the other by William Zinsser. I wanted him to realize that my criticisms of his writing were not the pet peeves of a demented English professor. This student completed several other courses with me in composition and literature, and I continued to help him build upon his critical thinking and writing skills. I earned his respect and trust.

Treating students fairly and equally in instruction and evaluation is essential because of the racial tension that often exists in prisons. Whites may be quick to accuse the instructor of grading blacks and Hispanics too easily because of both race and class. Likewise, minority students may believe they are being treated and evaluated unfairly because of their race. Some students may have legitimate concerns of racial bias on the part of the instructors. If that is the case, the college program administrator should seriously consider such claims and investigate them. If students perceive unfair treatment as racially motivated and the program director does nothing to mitigate that perception, then racial tension may escalate, and violence may erupt outside of class in the students’ living quarters.

All in all, correctional students value efforts in helping them become better thinkers, readers, writers, and citizens. With the proper guidance, they can modify their behavior and attitudes and go on to become high achievers and intelligent thinkers. One avenue to achievement and the development of self worth is through the liberal arts.

Correctional educators have long noted the role of the liberal arts in rehabilitating offenders. For that reason, the few post-secondary correctional education programs in existence nationally include liberal arts courses as part of the degree requirements. The liberal arts promote learning through curriculum that is meaningful to offenders’ lives and foster critical thinking and problem solving (cognitive development) through reading and writing. To enhance critical thinking, educators should teach to the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Education Objectives (1956). In other words, students should achieve not only lower cognitive objectives, ones that require learning at the levels of knowledge, comprehension, and application, but also higher cognitive objectives, ones that require learning at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Offender students have noted the benefits of a liberal arts curriculum. One student, who earned a B.A. in sociology from the college program at the Attica Correctional Facility, states, “It [college program at Attica] widened my inner space and filled it with new ideas, new ways for reasoning and a new mode of being” (Valez, 2000). Another, who earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies from PUNC while incarcerated at the Westville Correctional Facility, commented on my course in the American novel: “You got me to do what my mother has been trying to do for years-get me to read.”

A liberal arts curriculum can aid the correctional educator in forming moral communities allowing inquiry, democratic dialogue, and freedom to pursue personal and educational interests. It also allows opportunities for values formation and moral development as Lawrence Jablecki (2000) discovered teaching philosophy at the Ramsey I Prison Unit in Rosharon, Texas. According to Stephen Duguid, “Liberal studies can alter prisoners’ perceptions of others while also promoting moral development that alters the way in which they interpret their perceptions, and ultimately how they behave” (Jones & d’Errico, 1994, p. 7). An offender student enrolled in Ball State University at the Indiana State Prison, agrees with Jablecki’s observation. In his unpublished essay, “Free the Mind, Free the Man,” he states, “Ball State’s core curriculum draws on a spectrum of knowledge that has enabled me to perceive a paradigm in human behavior and activity. . . . Studying courses such as psychology, history, anthropology, and astronomy, for example, prompted me to contemplate between diverse aspects of the human condition, which in turn, revealed a connection between diverse states of existence in the world. . . . This awakening has instilled in me a profound sense of control over the course of my life.” As the testimonies from these individuals attest, the liberal arts curriculum also promotes self-esteem through achievement.

Equally important, it is through the liberal arts curriculum that offenders can confront issues that are relevant to their lives, and it is through such a curriculum that instructors can incorporate issues of diversity, including those that concern race, class, and gender. After overcoming their initial anxieties, offender students relish opportunities to form and present their ideas in oral and written expression. Courses in composition and literature offer such opportunities.

Discussion or dialogue should be a major component of any liberal arts course, and it certainly is in my courses. In English Composition I and II, students discuss issues relevant to their lives before they conduct research and write on them. Who better than offender students to argue the need and benefits of college programs in correctional facilities? While the death penalty may not seem a compelling topic to the average college student, my offender students have made it compelling because during their incarceration, they have met death row inmates. Such a topic also leads to analyses of gender, class, and racial biases regarding the assignment of the death penalty. Students serving time for drug offenses have shown why the war on drugs is not working. Minority students have analyzed and presented their findings on the effectiveness and need for affirmative action. As a group, students debate these issues and share their ideas. Often they become so impassioned they continue discussion outside the classroom in their dormitories. Upon completion of their research in English Composition II, students give oral presentations based on their findings and arguments. One semester the editor of the campus newspaper visited my English Composition I class and observed the students discuss the topic of College Education in the Prison System. She later reported in the newspaper: “I was very impressed by the intellectual and profound answers given by most of the students. Almost all of them engaged themselves in some level of the discussion that was taking place.”

To foster cooperative learning and community, students of all races and ethnic groups often are assigned in small groups to evaluate each other’s writing and to collaborate on problem-solving and writing tasks. I frequently assign students in groups to analyze the thesis and arguments of a particular essay in the reader assigned for the course. One semester students expressed discomfort at being assigned bell hooks’s “Straightening Our Hair” because of its feminist critique of white supremacist patriarchal culture. Hooks argues that African American women straighten their hair to meet the expectations of white ideals of beauty and to better fit into white society. They questioned why I had assigned such an essay given the racial tension that exists in their living quarters. I explained that I had asked them to read the essay because it was one of the more interesting ones in the text and because topics concerning race and gender are often discussed on college campuses. I encouraged them to critique her arguments, thereby making the classroom a site where gender and racial issues can be confronted and debated among members of the moral community.

Issues regarding race and gender are more easily discussed with the more experienced upper-level offender students in literature courses. I have had the pleasure of teaching several different literature courses at WCF: The American Novel (two different semesters), Survey of American Literature: From Its Beginning to 1865, Women in Literature, and African American Literature. In my literature courses, students read and write about the texts of diverse groups of male and female authors of various backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. With their peers leading discussion, students engage in a lively intellectual debate and examine closely each author’s work. They discover the beauty of Toni Morrison’s language in Song of Solomon and experience one black male’s search for family roots and struggle for identity. They examine the theme of racism in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and William Faulkner’s Light in August. They explore the indignities a young black male suffers during his trial and on death row in Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying. Reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Susan Glaspell’s Trifles, they encounter the effects of oppressive marriages on women, and they begin to identify with the women in their lives who may be in situations similar to the ones the heroines in these texts face. They walk away with a better understanding of the effects of white assimilation on American Indians after reading Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues. Examination of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein allows for a discussion of creativity and the moral, ethical, and religious implications of scientific research, especially the contemporary practice of cloning. They consider what precipitates male induced violence toward women in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat.”

As members of a safe moral community, offender students thrive when provided learning opportunities to experience new subject matter, to engage in critical inquiry, and to form and express their ideas. I recall the day Mr. S, an African American, led discussion on Sojourner Truth’s speeches. He was amazed that a former female slave had the courage to agitate for both women’s rights and abolitionism, and his presentation of her work was fueled with much passion. My African American students, even those who had attended the inner city schools of Indianapolis, had not been exposed to the works of black authors.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to incorporate diversity issues into the curriculum, and teaching literature is the perfect vehicle for doing so. Experiencing literature from a multicultural perspective helps the offender student form values, exercise the moral imagination, think divergently, and build community. Most importantly, literature that is meaningful to their lives can help offender students to understand their own behaviors and to make judgments about them. Ultimately freeing their minds, reading literature liberates them.

For these reasons, it is not surprising that Robert Waxler, an English professor at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and Robert Kane, a judge in Edgartown, Massachusetts, founded “Changing Lives Through Literature” to help rehabilitate criminals (Reske, 1995).

Student Success Stories

We have many success stories to tell, some in the words of the students themselves, but such successes can only occur with appropriate mentoring from educators who value difference and diversity in the learning environment and who can recognize and appreciate the potential talents of their offender students.

Overall, the PUNC program has been a rewarding experience for me and my family. I came into prison with a bad attitude thinking everyone owes me something. Now, I will be giving back to society what I took away because of the good attitude this program helped me gain. Learning is fun and rewarding. Thank you faculty and administrators for making this possible.

I was illiterate when I came to prison. With the opportunities Purdue has offered me, I feel confident with my educational background which is imperative for my future. I read everything I get my hands on and love writing. I’ve been on the Dean’s List since the second semester of my first year in the program. I will soon complete my BLS degree.

I’m very satisfied with the wonderful educational opportunities this program has provided me. I can now find employment much easier with a college degree than I could with only my GED. When I finish my sentence and venture to the great outside, I will also pursue a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Thank you Purdue!

Mr. R, in and out of prison his whole life, enrolled in the college program with much cynicism and doubt. However, after finding his forte as a writer in English composition and winning several awards in the Purdue North Central Writing Contest, he now has aspirations to embark on a career in journalism.

After his release from WCF, Mr. B finished his B.S. degree in computer technology at Purdue University in West Lafayette and acquired a job with a major corporation in New York City. He is grateful to his PUNC English professor for motivating and inspiring him to succeed.

After serving his sentence at WCF and completing his bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, Mr. M from Hammond, Indiana plans to enter a graduate program in social work so that he can help troubled youth in his community see that education is the answer.

After completing his sentence at WCF, Mr. C expressed his gratitude for having the opportunity to turn his life toward positive, productive ends. He wrote, “I realize there is some animosity aimed at inmate education. To constantly rotate individuals through a system of human warehousing is not only expensive but is socially a mistake. I am now able to work productively in society and therefore put our tax dollars back into a system that breeds progress instead of one that advocates stagnation and regression. I suggest that a system that promotes the education of our errant citizens is much favored over a system that just stores an offender for a limited time then releases that individual back into the community with nothing more than a boot up the rear. We are not in competition with PUNC campus students. We are in competition with our past. We see that we made a mistake. Thank you PUNC for this opportunity, for a vision not clouded by tradition, and for showing that this University stands for progress when other schools only profess such.”


Schools are microcosms of society, generally multicultural, consisting of individuals with a variety of styles and personalities. The primary function of schools is to educate students to communicate effectively, gather and use information, and make responsible decisions in an ever-changing global community, and the ultimate goal of education, regardless of the level, is to do what is best for ALL students. This should be the mission that guides every decision made by educators and other internal and external community members, with a focus on creating a community climate and structure conducive to lifelong learning for all students within the unit to reach their full potential. A nurturing, challenging, and supportive learning environment is essential to the education process that unites, empowers, and inspires all to make an individual and collective contribution to society. As stated by Dr. James Comer (2000), Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center, Associate Dean of the School of Medicine, and Director of the School Development Program at Yale University, “Education must be grounded in a holistic educational philosophy and must incorporate sensitive practices of authentic teaching and learning that are implemented according to sound principles of collaboration and empowerment, and that are undergirded by a respect for the dignity and worth of all learners” (p. xvii).

Our offender students’ views on teaching and learning are consistent with those of contemporary theorists and educators. They want classrooms that are caring communities where they are respected, where active participation and learning take place, where there is more reliance on teacher expertise rather than textbook regurgitation, where collaboration in decision processes is implemented, and where differences are valued rather than feared by all its residents.

We entered the education profession to serve and be servant leaders. Our leadership is visionary and is grounded in our democratic principles, which stem from our sense of ethics and values. Comer (2000) reiterates this point when he notes Ralph Tyler’s educational philosophy in a democratic society, which emphasizes four basic democratic values:

(1) The recognition of the importance of every individual as a human being regardless of race, national, social, or economic status;

(2) opportunity for wide participation in all phases of activities in the social groups in the society;

(3) encouragement of variability rather than demanding a single type of personality; and

(4) faith in intelligence as a method of dealing with important problems and issues rather than depending upon the authority of an autocratic or aristocratic group. (p. 167)

We must strive to create a sense of unity so that race, class, gender, and disability will not deter learner development. We must transmit a sense of hope to our students. Many of the offenders dwell on what they do not have, and we must instill in them that with educational opportunities that good and wonderful things will occur.

The educational system of yesterday is no longer adequate. Today’s challenges demand schools to educate all students so that they may lead productive lives. As premised by Robert Shockley and his associates (1992), “it is frightening to read that the educational foundations of our society are being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people” (p. 312). As post-secondary correctional educators, we find it frightening to discover that many of our offender students are culturally illiterate and lack the cultural vocabulary needed to interpret the past, assess the present, or address the future. To leave any institution of learning ignorant of the riches of literature, lacking an appreciation of our society’s past, or uninformed as to the geopolitical realities that have confronted us for several centuries and continue to filter into the present is intolerable.

Our society has promised all students an equal and high-quality education, but much of the educational results have falsified this promise. Unless our educational system addresses inequity at all levels and through all educational practices, we will be proceeding with business as usual. Affirming diversity in no way implies that we merely celebrate differences. On the contrary, issues of racism and inequality must be confronted directly in any comprehensive multi-cultural education program (Nieto, 1996).

The Purdue University North Central Post-Secondary Correctional Education Program promotes civility, develops cognition, and encourages confidence. These three Cs along with the forming of moral communities and the incorporation of diversity initiatives should guide approaches to criminal rehabilitation. Our University program with Westville Correctional Facility and Lakeside Correctional Facility is a highly successful programming structure in the workplace recruitment process. Many professionals realize that advanced education will fuel our global economy and shape our multicultural and technological society. Let us continue to “stoke our economy with the necessary fuel produced by post-secondary correctional education opportunities and programming rather than with the mediocre cinders presently thrown off, and take a proactive and collaborative approach to shape our society for the benefit of all its members” (Taylor, 1992, p. 138).

Teachers are among the most important and influential leaders in America, and the messages received from correctional educators tell students something about power and authority in contemporary society. However, to be effective leaders in a prison setting and to survive in such an environment, educators must look beyond the concrete-block walls, steel-barred windows and doors, and endless yards of electrified mesh fencing with piercing razor wire to view the context in which they are working. To succeed despite such depressing and intellectually deadening surroundings, educators must believe in their students, themselves, and the value of education.


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Biographical Sketches

Jane E. Rose is Associate Professor of English at Purdue University North Central in Westville, Indiana. Dr. Rose has taught courses in composition and literature at the Westville and Lakeside Correctional Facilities since 1997. She holds a B.A. in English Education, an M.A. in English, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue University, West Lafayette. Dr. Rose has presented papers on various topics including post-secondary correctional education, nineteenth-century women’s literature, and business writing at regional, national, and international conferences. She has published articles on nineteenth-century conduct books for women and on the nineteenth-century feminist author Elizabeth Oakes Smith.

Maxilynn Voss is Assistant Professor of Education and serves as Department Chair for Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Matanuska-Susitna College, University of Alaska-Anchorage in Palmer, Alaska. From August 2000 to January 2002, Prof. Voss served as the first coordinator of the Purdue University North Central Post-Secondary Correctional Education Program at the Lakeside Correctional Facility in Michigan City, Indiana and from 1998-2000 taught first-year composition and business and technical writing at the Westville Correctional Facility. A former elementary teacher and principal, she holds a B.S. and an M.S. in Education and a Specialist Degree in Education Administration from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Prof. Voss has presented papers on post-secondary correctional education at international conferences and conducted numerous workshops on teaching.

Copyright Correctional Education Association Dec 2003

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