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Working for Justice

A Handbook of Prison Education and Activism

Stephen John Hartnett

Publication Year: 2013

This collection documents the efforts of the Prison Communication, Activism, Research, and Education collective (PCARE) to put democracy into practice by merging prison education and activism. Through life-changing programs in a dozen states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin), PCARE works with prisoners, in prisons, and in communities to reclaim justice from the prison-industrial complex. Based on years of pragmatic activism and engaged teaching, the materials in this volume present a sweeping inventory of how communities and individuals both within and outside of prisons are marshaling the arts, education, and activism to reduce crime and enhance citizenship. Documenting hands-on case studies that emphasize educational initiatives, successful prison-based programs, and activist-oriented analysis, Working for Justice provides readers with real-world answers based on years of pragmatic activism and engaged teaching. Contributors are David Coogan, Craig Lee Engstrom, Jeralyn Faris, Stephen John Hartnett, Edward A. Hinck, Shelly Schaefer Hinck, Bryan J. McCann, Nikki H. Nichols, Eleanor Novek, Brittany L. Peterson, Jonathan Shailor, Rachel A. Smith, Derrick L. Williams, Lesley A. Withers, Jennifer K. Wood, and Bill Yousman.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

The Prison Communication, Activism, Research, and Education Collective (PCARE) is a national group of scholars, teachers, artists, and activists dedicated to ending America’s addiction to mass incarceration and the failed social policies that have made the United States the world’s biggest jailer. ...

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Introduction: Working for Justice in the Age of Mass Incarceration

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pp. 1-10

America’s prison population has exploded: we now imprison over 2.3 million of our neighbors while keeping another 5 million former prisoners on probation, on parole, and under house arrest (Glaze & Parks, 2012). Some estimates place the cost of maintaining this vast prison-industrial complex at over $228 billion per year. ...

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Part I. Working on the Inside: The Transformative Potential of Prison Education

We begin Working for Justice in the hands of experienced prison educators who detail their uses of theater and meditation, biography and narrative, and service-learning programs in the Wisconsin, Virginia, and Michigan prisons where they teach. As the three chapters in Part One demonstrate, working for justice inside the walls of prisons is challenging, ...

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Chapter 1 Kings, Warriors, Magicians, and Lovers: Alternative Performances of Masculinity

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pp. 13-38

After thirty years of participating in, directing, and evaluating violence- prevention programs, the noted psychotherapist James Gilligan came to the conclusion that “the basic psychological motive, or cause, of violent behavior is the wish to ward off or eliminate the feeling of shame and humiliation—a feeling that is painful, and can even be intolerable and overwhelming.” ...

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Chapter 2. Service-Learning in Prison Facilities: Interaction as a Source of Transformation

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pp. 39-59

Recently, state governments have turned to reducing prison populations in an attempt to cope with decreasing state revenues (Archibold, 2010; Schwartz, 2010; Steinhauer, 2009). While prison activists might greet these developments with some degree of satisfaction, such actions on the part of states leave the more fundamental issues facing incarceration policy unaddressed. ...

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Chapter 3. Writing Your Way to Freedom: Autobiography as Inquiry in Prison Writing Workshops

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pp. 60-80

I’m sitting in a circle with a few dozen men in a classroom sanctuary, a respite from the noise, violence, and negativity of a jail built to house 800 prisoners but that routinely houses more than 1,500. The walls of this sanctuary within the Richmond City Jail are covered with posters of Mother Teresa and Malcolm X, photos of prisoners doing their work, and photocopies of GED and Career Readiness Certificates. ...

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Part II. Working on the Outside: Building New Selves and Strong Communities

The members of PCARE believe that the U.S. prison-industrial complex is a massive, multilayered, complicated nesting of institutions, ideas, laws, habits, investments, and daily practices. Whereas the essays in Part One addressed how our members work inside prisons, ...

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Chapter 4. “Courtesy Incarceration”: Exploring Family Members’ Experiences of Imprisonment

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pp. 83-102

On Christmas Eve 2003, I remember nervously walking from the parking lot toward the imposing locked door of the local county jail. As we walked up, the locks clicked and we were allowed to go inside. The visit was short, only one hour in length. We sat on the hard metal immobile stools and looked at each other through double-paned glass. ...

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Chapter 5. Serving Time by Coming Home: Communicating Hope through a Reentry Court

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pp. 103-122

Ben1 had been a participant in a reentry Problem Solving Court (PSC) for a month when he stood at a podium in the courtroom for his weekly conversation with the judge. I listened, observed, and wrote field notes as Ben and the other nineteen participants took their turns interacting with the judge. ...

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Chapter 6. Life After Incarceration: Exploring Identity in Reentry Programs for Wome

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pp. 123-138

Since the 1990s, women have represented the fastest-growing prison population in the United States (United States Department of Justice, 2009). High incarceration rates for women are troubling enough, but what happens once they serve their time behind bars? ...

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Part III. Working on the Media: Representations of Prisons and Prison Activism

Part Three offers two essays arguing that how Americans think about crime, violence, imprisonment, and the larger social forces that lead to them is shaped in large part by mass-mediated spectacles that teach us to fear stereotypical others and hence to crave heavy-handed efforts by police forces. ...

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Chapter 7. Challenging the Media-Incarceration Complex through Media Education

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pp. 141-159

It is a typical night of television in the United States: on HBO a gang of African American prisoners are assaulting another captive, a white man, passing him back and forth and laughing as they abuse him; on NBC a group of black female inmates are wreaking havoc in a hospital emergency room; ...

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Chapter 8. “Prisoners Rise, Rise, Rise!”: Hip Hop as a Ciceronian Approach to Prison Protest and Community Care

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pp. 160-184

The United States is addicted to prisons (Walmsley, 2009), and many of the men and women who inhabit these facilities are often abandoned by family, friends, and society. Popular hip-hop artist Nas’s lyrics, quoted above, remind us of the stark material reality faced by the nearly 2.3 million prisoners in the United States and 5 million others on probation, on parole, and under house arrest (Pew, 2010; Porter, 2011). ...

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Part IV. Working on the Futures of Prison Activism

Part Four offers two essays urging scholars and activists to think more creatively about ways not only to oppose mass incarceration, but to imagine new forms of engaged and compassionate citizenship. In Chapter Nine, Bryan McCann explores the paradox of life without parole in the death-penalty-abolitionist movement. ...

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Chapter 9. “A Fate Worse than Death”: Reform, Abolition, and Life without Parole in Anti–Death Penalty Discourse

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pp. 187-202

Over the past decade, citizens and public officials in the United States have begun to turn against the death penalty. The first indication that capital punishment may be reaching its twilight years came in 2003, when George Ryan, the Republican governor of Illinois, commuted every death sentence in his state following a moratorium and institutional review of his state’s death-penalty apparatus. ...

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Chapter 10. “People Like Us”: A New Ethic of Prison Advocacy in Racialized America

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pp. 203-220

Mass imprisonment has failed to reduce crime and poverty and has undermined America’s most fundamental values of liberty and equality. Reproducing the worst patterns of racial discrimination, the population of the nation’s overflowing prisons is more than half black or Hispanic. ...


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pp. 221-250

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pp. 251-256

Beth M. Cohen worked as a research assistant in the department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. She has studied a variety of communication issues in the hope of generating effective interventions that might lead toward social justice. ...


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pp. 257-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094965
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037702

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Prisoners -- Education -- United States.
  • Prisoners -- Political activity -- United States.
  • Prisoners -- Civil rights -- United States.
  • Corrections -- United States.
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