Prisons, Pedagogy, and Possibilities: An Application of Freire and hooks’ Educational Philosophies

Lindsay D. Scott


This paper calls attention to educational opportunities inside of correctional facilities. Literature correlates a direct relationship between education and reduced recidivism (Esperian, 2010; Rand Corp., 2014; DOJ, 2016b). Using Freire and hooks’ educational philosophies I discuss how I engaged critical pedagogy while teaching incarcerated juvenile offenders. I found that the youth I worked with were eager for an educational experience that allowed them to critically engage with our social world and analyze their lived experiences. Teaching in this controlled environment was challenging. My autonomy was encroached upon, which offered me a unique insight into the daily lives of the inmates. Through dialogical interactions, my perceptions and assumptions about incarcerated youth were confronted and changed. A radical and transformative pedagogy created a space where the notion of freedom could be negotiated.


corrections, education, pedagogy, Freire, hooks


Alexander, M. (2010). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: New Press.

do Valle, A., Huang, V. & Spira, M. (2006). The prison industrial complex. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 8(1), pp. 130-144.

Esperian, J.H. (2010). The effect of prison education programs on recidivism. The Journal of Correctional Education, 61(4), pp. 316-334.

Freire, P. (1994). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.

Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.

Giroux, H.A. (1988). Teachers as intellectuals: Toward a critical pedagogy of learning. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

Giroux, H.A. (1983). Theory and resistance in education. South Hadley, M.A: Bergin & Garvey Publishers, Inc.

Hartnett, S. J., Wood, J. K., & McCann, B. J. (2011). Turning silence into speech and action: Prison activism and the pedagogy of empowered citizenship. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 8(4), 331-352.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

hooks, b. (2000). Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

Mallory, J.L. (2006). Globalization, prisons, and the philosophy of punishment. Women’s Studies, 35, pp. 529-543.

OJJDP (2015). Statistical Briefing Book. Retrieved from:

Rand Corp. (2013). Evaluating the effectiveness of correctional education a meta-analysis of programs that provide education to incarcerated adults. Retrieved from:

Second Chance Act 2007, H.R. 1593 (110th). (2008). Retrieved from

Stern, V. (2002). The international impact of U.S. policies. In M. Mauer & M. Chesney-Lind (Eds), Invisible punishment: The collateral consequences of mass imprisonment. (pp. 279-292). New York: New Press.

Taylor, J.M. (1992). Post-secondary correctional education: An evaluation of effectiveness and efficiency. Journal of Correctional Education, 43(3), pp. 132-141.

The Sentencing Project (2013). Incarceration. Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Justice (2003). Education and Correctional Populations. Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Justice (2014a). Prisoners in 2013. Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Justice (2014b). Correctional populations in the United States, 2013. Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Justice (2016a). Correctional populations in the United States, 2015. Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Justice (2016b). Justice Department announces reforms at Bureau of Prisons to reduce recidivism and promote inmate rehabilitation. Retrieved from:

Young, M. V., Phillips, R. S., & Nasir, N. S. (2010). Schooling in a youth prison. Journal of Correctional Education, 61(3), 203-222.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.