Now that I’m enjoying a bit of occupational prestige, I see how shortsighted my views were. Education Behind Bars is not about me. It is about the cause of prison education. And as such, I should want for a better, more comprehensive title to appear even now as my title was released about a year ago. After all, this could do nothing but advance the cause of educating prisoners.
As this realization has dawned upon me, I have come to see my peers not as “the competition,” but as friends and much needed allies and colleagues. I’m ecstatic that Dr. Jon Marc Taylor (author of the Prisoners’ Guerrilla Handbook to Correspondence Programs in the U.S. and Canada), Bruce Micheals (author of College in Prison), Janice Chamberlin (author of Locked Up With Success), and Dr. Thom Gehring (author of a slew of terrific prison education titles) are working as they are. I’m glad that they have published their books. And I not only anticipate their future projects, but support them, too. I’ll be one of the first to purchase their future titles as they become available.
I see that together we are stronger, our voices are louder, and our advocacy is more effective. We are all partners in this movement. And the crazy part is that we are both prisoners and staff members; two groups perpetually at odds with one another.
I implore all of you to adopt this mindset in regards to your peers, students, and all others who support the education of prisoners. Each of these groups facilitates a different need or aspect of the equation, but still are valued and needed for everything to come full circle. There would not be educators if it weren’t for students and there would be no students if it weren’t for educators. Neither group would exist without the other.
Along these lines, I believe that good research should stand as good research, whether it was conducted by a prisoner or a staff member. Too often I’ve seen our professional community ignore important contributions by incarcerated students and researchers. This is most evident in Dr. Taylor’s work not being cited when it contributes to particular discussions. It pains me to see books or articles which seem to cite everyone except him. In my research and writing, I strive to cite all appropriate sources, no matter which side of the wall they reside on. I implore everyone else to do the same.
Politics aside, we need to support one another. We need to work on one another’s projects. We need to lend a helping hand whenever possible. After all, we’re all on the same team.
While I was not involved with the criminal justice system in the early 1990s — I was born in 1986 — I have read about the tremendous teamwork utilized to defeat the first rounds of the prison education funding battle. While we eventually lost in 1994, the battle was fought collectively and we as a united prison education community did manage to beat back even misinformed senators. This is a tremendous accomplishment and a testament to the power and value of education. It is my sincere hope and desire that we might come together again to advocate on a national stage for greater educational opportunities for the incarcerated, regardless of what they might look like or if they go home at night or not. The first step in this process is to support one another, celebrate their works, and do what we can to see the entire prison education community come together and succeed once more.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR OF PrisonEducation.com:
PrisonEducation.com is always open to assisting in the promotion of any pro-prison education book, product, project, or service. As a matter of fact, we want to promote these. If you are in the field of prison education and would like a helping hand promoting your work, all you need to do is ask. We’re at your service. Likewise, PrisonEducation.com is always open to submissions from those in the field.