Empowering the Marginalized: The Challenges and Opportunities of Teaching Communication in a Women’s Detention Facility

  • Rachel Clancy San Diego State University
  • Breanne Acio San Diego State University
  • Denisha Biggers San Diego State University
  • Courtney Hook San Diego State University
  • Chelsea Chapman San Diego State University
  • Dr. Luke Winslow San Diego State University
Keywords: immediacy, detention center, communication instruction


Social justice can often be measured by how a society treats its incarcerated citizens. In a promising development, public opinion has evolved recently away from a punitive attitude toward criminal justice to one of rehabilitation and recovery. In turn, communication scholars are uniquely equipped to contribute to the process of reconstructing just discourses related to inmate rehabilitation. This pedological exploration takes a narrative approach to how instructors communicatively construct their experiences behind bars. Through the perspective of six volunteer instructors, we offer a unique glimpse into the complexities that can arise from teaching in incarceration settings. Our collective narratives revealed three primary themes: pedagogical paradox, connection seeking, and forward focus.  

Author Biographies

Rachel Clancy, San Diego State University
Rachel Clancy is a graduate student in the School of Communication at San Diego State University. Her research interests include political communication and social movements.
Breanne Acio, San Diego State University
Breanne Acio’s research is centered on how people manage stigma in varying social contexts, primarily for sexual and gender minorities.
Denisha Biggers, San Diego State University
Denisha Biggers is an interpersonal/relational physio-health scholar with an emphasis on resilience and coping. Her interests lie in applied communication and social justice.
Courtney Hook, San Diego State University
Courtney Hook researches how female inmates make sense of their time behind bars in respect to social support and intrapersonal transformation.
Chelsea Chapman, San Diego State University
Chelsea Chapman studies the barriers to and best practices of pain communication in patient-provider interactions.
Dr. Luke Winslow, San Diego State University
Dr. Winslow’s teaching and research interests include contemporary rhetorical criticism, political communication, and social justice.


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