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Topic: Justice initiatives

Issue Brief
April 18, 2024

Serving Library Patrons Behind Bars

Challenges and Collaborations

Introduction The past several years have seen major shifts in both policy and perception regarding criminal justice in the United States. The distinctly American phenomenon of mass incarceration and its racial and economic underpinnings have made criminal justice reform a major focus of advocacy efforts and a rare example of bipartisan agreement. As a growing quantity of research has begun to illuminate the negative societal impacts of the carceral system, especially on communities of color, focus has slowly shifted to…
Blog Post
April 3, 2024

Navigating Two Systems

New Report on Censorship and Self-Censorship in Higher Education in Prison Programs

Today we’re publishing Between Two Systems: Navigating Censorship and Self-Censorship in Higher Education in Prisons. Based on interviews with students and educators, this is the third report in a series made possible by Ascendium Education Group focusing on the intersection of technology, surveillance, and censorship in higher education in prisons.
Research Report
April 3, 2024

Between Two Systems

Navigating Censorship and Self-Censorship in Higher Education in Prisons

Building on our previous research on the ways that media review directives and censorship policies may limit or protect student access to intellectual and education material, as well as on the technology students on the inside can access for educational purposes, this report explores how educators in higher education in prison programs navigate censorship and self-censorship and how the relationship between educational programs and departments of corrections may have an impact on the educational experience and learning outcomes of students.
Past Event
April 24, 2024

Serving Library Patrons Behind Bars

As the landscape of higher education in prison shifts and evolves, libraries are making efforts to expand services in prisons across the country while facing a myriad of challenges, from limited staff capacity to shrinking budgets. With support from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Ithaka S+R conducted an exploratory research project to document the different types of libraries involved in providing services in prison, the service models and missions those libraries are advancing, the challenges of working…
Past Event
March 5, 2024

Empowering Incarcerated Learners through Technology Solution

SXSW EDU 2024 Session

The reintroduction of Pell Grants to incarcerated learners and recent spread of technology-supported learning call us to explore how tech supports higher education in prison (HEP) programs. While tech has power and potential to help HEP learners succeed, it must be used carefully. On March 5 at 2:30-3:30pm CT, a SXSW EDU panel featuring Ithaka S+R Managing Director Catharine Bond Hill will explore the HEP tech landscape, which is largely shaped by state-level policies. It spotlights two organizations: one…
Blog Post
November 29, 2023

Reflections on the 2023 National Conference on Higher Education in Prisons (NCHEP)

With the restoration of Pell grants for incarcerated students on July 1, the 13th annual National Conference on Higher Education in Prisons (NCHEP), held November 9-11 in Atlanta, marked a turning point in the evolution and growth of the field. This NCHEP was the largest ever, selling out registration weeks in advance and with a record number of first-time attendees, including librarians and representatives from departments of corrections. Most notably, in keeping with the conference theme of “Closing the Gap,”…
Blog Post
October 31, 2023

Aligning the Conversation on Technology Use for Education Programs in Prisons and Jails

A Collaborative Update and Call to Action for the Education in Prisons and Jails Research Community Given recent policy changes and expanded access to postsecondary education, technology options for education programs in prisons and jails are increasing at all levels. Education technology vendors are responding to these changes with new platforms, instructional content, and devices that can be used to support education programming inside facilities. At the same time, there is a growing need for research on the use of…
Past Event
November 10, 2023

Higher Education in Prisons at the Digital Crossroads: The Present and Future of the Field

NCHEP 2023

At the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison’s 13th National Conference on Higher Education in Prison (NCHEP), Ithaka S+R’s Kurtis Tanaka and Ess Pokornowski will review results from our survey of technology in higher education in prison programs, breaking down key facts and figures and discussing how insights from the survey inform their current and future work. They will also be joined by Stacy Burnett of the JSTOR Access in Prison Initiative in a conversation on technology access,…
Blog Post
October 26, 2023

Accessibility and Disability Services in Postsecondary Education in Prisons: A Student Perspective

An Interview with Ben Wright

In the third installment of our series on issues of disability, accessibility, and accommodations in postsecondary education in prison programs, we spoke with Ben Wright on his personal experience with disability and higher education in prison and the many challenges people with disabilities face inside. This follows our interview with Dr. Jenifer K. Montag, Director of Disability Services, at Marion Technical College, which highlights the issues that service providers face. Last April,…
Blog Post
October 5, 2023

Pell Restoration for People in Prison

Webinar Recording and Additional Resources

On September 29, we hosted a webinar, “Pell 101: Information for Librarians and Those Serving People in Prison,” to share information about the restoration of Pell funding for students who are incarcerated. Panelists included prison education journalist and Open Campus reporter Charlotte West, Vera Institute of Justice Associate Initiative Director Ruth Delaney, and NASFAA Education Specialist Sheila Meiman. We’re pleased to share the recording here. Below, you will also find our panelists’ responses to questions raised during the…
Blog Post
September 25, 2023

Accessibility and Disability Services in Postsecondary Education in Prison Programming

An Interview with Jenifer Montag

This is the second post in our series spotlighting the complex and challenging situation regarding disabilities, accessibility, and accommodations in postsecondary education in prison programs. Read the first entry and announcement of the series. We recently spoke with Dr. Jenifer K. Montag, director of disability services at Marion Technical College, about her work as a researcher-practitioner, the challenges of providing disability services to postsecondary students in prison, and what needs to change for equitable access to education inside. To…
Blog Post
September 11, 2023

Building College-Community Partnerships for Reentry

New ECMC Foundation Funding to Support Higher Education After Incarceration

Higher education in prison programs are receiving significant attention in light of the restoration of Pell grants, but the provision of reentry support and continuing education post release has only recently become a focus of the field. From complex college application systems and financial aid processes to meeting basic needs, students face a range of obstacles that may prevent them from completing their degrees after incarceration. Building pathways that specifically support students in achieving their educational goals post-release will be…
Past Event
September 29, 2023

Pell 101

Information for Librarians and Those Serving People in Prison

As of July 1, 2023, people who are incarcerated are once again eligible to receive the federal Pell grant, ending an almost 30 year ban. While this represents a long sought victory for advocates working to expand access to postsecondary educational opportunities inside, the process by which Pell restoration is being implemented is complex, involving many stakeholders across Departments of Corrections, colleges and universities, accreditors, and federal agencies. People who are incarcerated will be the critical stakeholders in ensuring access…
Blog Post
September 7, 2023

Technology in Higher Education in Prison Programs Survey Report Released

Ithaka S+R has published the results of a first-of-its-kind, nationwide survey of technology access in higher education in prison programs. You can read the full report findings, discussion, and recommendations here, as well as a condensed version of the key findings and figures. Important Information for a Field in Flux In July, the FAFSA Simplification Act went into effect, reinstating federal Pell grant funding for students who are incarcerated, and it is expected to increase access to…
Research Report
September 7, 2023

Technology in Higher Education in Prison Programs

A Report on Survey Findings

In an effort to make visible the national landscape of access to educational technology in prison education programs, Ithaka S+R launched a national survey in the fall of 2022. The survey asked respondents about student access to technology in their higher education in prison program, collecting demographic information before focusing on four thematic areas: technological devices, learning management systems and software, network connection and internet access, and future technology plans.
Research Report
September 7, 2023

Technology in Higher Education in Prison Programs: Key Findings and Figures

This report includes the key findings from the technology in higher education in prisons survey that Ithaka S+R fielded in 2022. The survey focused on four thematic areas: technological devices, learning management systems and software, network connectivity or internet access, and future information technology plans.
Past Event
October 12, 2023

The American Prison, a Site of Digital Exclusion

Digital Inclusion Research Forum

Mass incarceration impacts millions of Americans and its toll on families and communities of color is exacerbated by the digital exclusion of people in prison. When the digital divide is the prison wall, there are special challenges in conducting research that might inform effective interventions. Nonetheless, highlighting existing research and the opportunities for advancing digital inclusion at this critical moment has the potential to unlock opportunity for people in prison nationwide.  At a session at the…
Past Event
August 23, 2023

Education Technology in Prison Programs

Survey Finding & Building the Technology Ecosystem

Technological solutions to support and enhance correctional education have been a growing area of interest over the past several years. A series of major “shocks to the system,” such as COVID, staffing shortages, and soon, the restoration of Pell grants, has only accelerated questions about technology, its implementation, and proper role in supporting education. To help answer these questions, a session at the Correctional Education Association Conference, led by representatives from RTI and Ithaka S+R, will present recent research…
Blog Post
July 26, 2023

Disability, Accessibility, and Higher Education in Prisons

Earlier this month, the FAFSA Simplification Act restored federal Pell grant funding for students who are incarcerated in US prisons. This has driven excitement about higher education in prisons, with pieces celebrating the revised policy in Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education. While this is unequivocally good news, it is important to understand that full Pell reinstatement is propelling, and arriving amidst, rapid change in higher education in prisons,…
Blog Post
June 5, 2023

Humanizing Language in Policy

This is the third and final entry in a series of blog posts reflecting on findings from our recent report on state media review directives, Security and Censorship. The first blog post announced the report publication, offered key findings, and emphasized how the research connects to broader debates about education, censorship, and policy. The second blog post zoomed in on the report recommendations and model policy, highlighting aspects of the report that may be of most interest…