UGA International Partnership Opens New Methods for Teaching in Prisons
A recent conference co-hosted with the SciencesPo Grenoble on the university's role in educating incarcerated persons opened up an international dialogue about best practices and social responsibility. Present at the conference was Dr. Ben Walker, who works at the Crito Project, a program housed at UGA partner institution the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The conference brought together university researchers and teachers working in these issues, prison administrators and staff, and representatives from the not-for-profit world. The day allowed them to share their different perspectives and experiences, working towards a better education for persons who are incarcerated.

The CRITO Project

The project introduces prisoners to university-level philosophy, ethics, and logic. This fills a gap in UK educational options for prisoners: while many prisons offer vocational training or high school level education, very little is available at the university level. The UK's Open University is an excellent option for high-quality distance learning, but is often out of reach for many who are incarcerated, for both practical and financial reasons. .

While he is encouraged by the positive outcomes seen in similar programs in other countries, Dr. Walker says that the project should be rooted in the ideals of higher education. He wants his work to open up a higher education to a population with little to no access, and also to see the university make a positive and meaningful impact on society. The Crito Project argues that such institutional partnerships benefit the university just as much as the prison.

An International Endeavor

According to Dr. Walker, the political context in the United States has meant a proliferation of programs and models for the teaching of prisoners. He says that the most efficient way to make progress on these issues is to borrow from the American models and experience. There are over 200 prison partnerships in the US right now, and various educators have been working on the problem since at least 1994, leaving researchers in Europe with a wide range of viable strategies, pedagogies and philosophies to draw upon.

US models also show promising outcomes: programs that the Crito Project draws its inspiration from have been shown to dramatically reduce rates of recidivism for their students, as compared with the general prison population. While they do not yet have longitudinal data, Crito Project staff report increased curiosity and self-esteem in the individuals they work with.

This exchange is also, Dr. Walker says hopefully, the first of many. The UEA, like the UGA, is a member of the Aurora network of universities. Aurora's working group on diversity and inclusion provides a framework for the exchange of best practices and shared challenges. By using this structure, the group members hope to make further progress on the issue of prison education with upcoming visits to the UEA, as well as the inclusion of additional partners and institutions from within the network.
 
Published on August 19, 2019
Updated on August 19, 2019