Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach College in Prison


Why are college programs offered in some prisons? How are the students selected? Where do the professors come from? What are the logistics of preparing to teach, and to learn, behind the wall? How does the digital divide affect these students?

Today’s book is: Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach College in Prison (Brandeis UP, 2022) edited by Mneesha Gellman, which is an edited volume reflecting on different aspects of teaching in prison and different points of view. This book seeks to address some of the major issues faced by faculty who are teaching college classes for incarcerated students. Composed of a series of case studies meant to showcase the strengths and challenges of teaching a range of different disciplines in prison, this volume brings together scholars who articulate some of the best practices for teaching their expertise inside alongside honest reflections on the reality of educational implementation in a constrained environment. The book not only provides essential guidance for faculty interested in developing their own courses to teach in prisons, but also places the work of higher education in prisons in philosophical context with regards to racial, economic, social, and gender-based issues. Rather than solely a how-to handbook, this volume also helps readers think through the trade-offs that happen when teaching inside, and about how to ensure the full integrity of college access for incarcerated students.

Our guest is: Dr. Mneesha Gellman, who is the founder and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative, which brings an Emerson College bachelor’s degree pathway to incarcerated students at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord. Gellman is an associate professor of political science at the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, who is the host and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in history, which she uses to explore what stories we tell and what happens to those we never tell.

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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