Jail pedagogies: Teaching and trust in a maximum-security men’s prison

  • Eleanor M. Novek Monmouth University
Keywords: Jail pedagogy, , neo-Freirian, critical race pedagogy, transforming power


Prison education promises to reduce recidivism and enhance prisoners’ return to society, but activist pedagogies also help learners develop greater understanding of the systemic forces sustaining the prison industrial complex and increase their capacity to resist the racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination that undermine their personhood. While the often-emotional literature on prison education can be poignant, activist educators benefit more from specific guidelines about the ways teachers and learners can build community together. This essay describes a neo-Freierian classroom community in a maximum-security state prison that relies both on Flores’ “jail pedagogy†approach (2012), with its relationships of trust and radical acceptance, and Gaskew’s “humiliation to humility†perspective (2015), with its critical Afrocentric pedagogy. It also introduces the concept of transforming power, an attitude of radical acceptance and love that offers a path to true reconciliation with the incarcerated.

Author Biography

Eleanor M. Novek, Monmouth University
I am a Professor in the Department of Communication at Monmouth University and a prison volunteer educator for the last 16 years.


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