We are excited to announce the launch of a new survey on the landscape of technology access in higher education in prison programs. This survey is a part of Ithaka S+R’s larger work on access to information for incarcerated students and the role of media review in higher education in prisons.

Early research on the expansion of postsecondary educational opportunities in carceral settings is very positive. However, existing research suggests that educational and skills-based inequities hinder system impacted learners. While higher education in prison (HEP) programs are well-equipped to address such inequities, they often lack access to the digital technologies necessary for improving the digital literacy and technological savvy of their students. 

Recent research emphasizing the value of digital literacy for both employment and reentry highlights the importance of increasing access to technology for incarcerated students, and marks access to networked digital technologies as a matter of educational quality and equity.  Yet, there is very little information about how different programs and facilities are experimenting with technology to support HEP students or how they navigate implementation.

The Survey

It is against this backdrop that we are launching a new survey, made possible with funding from Ascendium Education Group, to assess the level of technological access available to students in HEP programs. This study will build on our previous work examining the landscape of HEP programs and a qualitative study of the technologies commonly used in those programs.  

The data gathered in this survey will be aggregated at the state level and made publicly available in a report highlighting key findings. Our goal is to provide an overview of the current technology landscape as it relates to higher education in prisons so that HEP programs and state and federal correctional policymakers can see what is available, make meaningful comparisons, and advocate for better access to technology based on successful implementations elsewhere.  

The survey will gather information about different categories of technological access in HEP programs: 

  • Facility and Program Information 
  • Technological Devices and Access 
    • Desktop Computers 
    • Laptops 
    • Tablets 
  • Additional Classroom and Educational Devices 
  • Learning Management Systems and Software 
  • Network Connection and Internet Access

Next Steps 

This survey launches today, August 23, and will remain open for responses until September 30, 2022. We will conduct follow-up interviews with a select number of programs that demonstrate particularly expansive or interesting implementations of technology.

If you direct or coordinate a higher education in prison program and would like to make sure that someone from your program has the opportunity to take the survey, please email surveys@ithaka.org for more information.