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ERIC Number: EJ1002274
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-2169-0480
Expanding the Purpose of a Prison Education Classroom
Thomas, Robert G.
Journal of Research and Practice for Adult Literacy, Secondary, and Basic Education, v1 n3 p173-178 Win 2012
In 1979, when the author began as an academic instructor at the Central Coast Adult School, located inside the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, California, he saw his teaching role in the traditional sense of imparting knowledge through the school's curriculum. Over time, however, his viewpoint changed as he came to recognize that the convicted male felons he was charged with teaching were not quite like the average students in the public education system. Instead, he found that many of his students were unsuccessful in their early education experiences often due to personal, psycho-emotional characteristics. As a result, he began identifying a number of those characteristics and determining how best to address them. He chose to assess his teaching approaches two ways: he administered written tests as well as a questionnaire to 53 students who were of multi-ethnic backgrounds, ranged from 20 to 50 years of age, and who had graduated from his General Education Development (GED[R]) test-preparation class between October 2009 and April 2010. On the questionnaire, the students were asked to list three ways in which going to school had improved their lives while they were in prison. The survey generated 159 statements that were then categorized to match the principles he attempted to promote through a variety of teaching strategies. The resulting categories concerned intellectual development, goal attainment, expanded social perception, self-esteem improvement, coping with the incarceration experience, enhanced life opportunities, and improved family relationships. There is no guarantee that any prisoner will automatically transform into a law-abiding citizen simply by becoming better educated academically or by learning a trade. However, without the opportunity and means for change, no improvement can be expected of those who want to leave their criminal lifestyles behind and become constructive members of mainstream society. Hence, the purpose of correctional education should be to provide learning experiences designed not only to address academic and vocational competency but also promote positive changes in inmates' self-images and aspirations. The ultimate goal in mind, of course, would be the subsequent alterations in personal behavior. To this end, the prison classroom offers the best opportunity to achieve the overall rehabilitation goal.
Commission on Adult Basic Education. PO Box 620, Syracuse, NY 13206. Tel: 888-442-6223; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Adult Basic Education; Adult Education; High School Equivalency Programs
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: General Educational Development Tests; Test of Adult Basic Education