Unlocking Learning

International Perspectives on Education in Prison

Edited by Justin McDevitt and Mneesha Gellman

Countries around the world have disparate experiences with education in prison. For decades, the United States has been locked in a pattern of exceptionally high mass incarceration. Though education has proven to be an impactful intervention, its role and the level of support it receives vary widely. As a result, effective opportunities for incarcerated people to reroute their lives during and after incarceration remain diffuse and inefficient. This volume highlights unique contributions from the field of education in prison globally.

In this volume academics and practitioners highlight new approaches and interesting findings from carceral interventions across twelve countries. From a college degree granting program in Mexico to educational best practices in Norway and Belgium that support successful reentry, innovations in education are being developed in prison spaces around the world. As contributors from many countries share their insights about providing effective educational programs to incarcerated people, the United States can learn from the models and struggles beyond its borders.

Learn more about the book here.

Paper: $35 | Cloth: $120 | E-book: $34.95
ISBN-13: 9781684581924
Pages: 307 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: January 23, 2024

An essential practical, theoretical and evidence-informed resource about the question of education in prison.

Aislinn O’Donnell

Maynooth University


  • An essential practical, theoretical and evidence-informed resource about the question of education in prison. This book offers hope to those jurisdictions mired in high rates of incarceration or challenging environments in prison that other visions for both education and other models of the penal system are not only possible, but already exist.

    Aislinn O'Donnell
    Maynooth University
  • This important volume brings a much needed international perspective to the study and practice of higher education in prisons. Practitioners will find a wealth of information to validate, inform, and inspire their own work here, but it is often what goes unsaid or is assumed in the countries represented in this volume that shows us glimpses of the possible — what education in prison can and should be.

    Kurtis Tanaka
    Senior Program Manager, Justice Initiatives, Ithaka S+R

About the Author

Maria Garro

Maria Garro is a psychologist, senior researcher in dynamic psychology, and instruc- tor of social psychology and forensic psychology in the Department of Psychology, Educational Science, and Human Movement at the University of Palermo (Italy). She is the author or coauthor of numerous books and articles on forensic psychol- ogy and prison, including “Immigrant Prisoners in Italy: Cultural Mediation to Reduce Social Isolation and Increase Migrant Prisoner Well-Being?”(2022, with M. …

Lise Øen Jones

Lise Øen Jones, PhD, is a professor at the Institute of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen, Norway. She has published books, chapters, and journal articles on topics such as reading and writing difficulties and efficacy beliefs among people in prison, special education in schools, and use of educational technology. Over the last few years, Dr. Jones and her colleagues in the Bergen Cognition and Learning Group have conducted several large-scale studies in Norwegian and Nordic …

Thomas Terje Manger

Terje Manger holds a doctoral degree from the University of Bergen, Norway, and is a professor emeritus of educational psychology at that university. He has published books and journal articles on topics such as general educational psychology, behavioral psychology, and gender differences in mathematical achievement in school. Dr. Manger and his colleagues in the Bergen Cognition and Learning Group at the University of Bergen have a long record of contributions to research on prison edu- …

Mneesha Gellman

Mneesha Gellman is associate professor of political science in the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College. She is the founder and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative, which brings a BA pathway to incarcerated students at state prisons in Massachusetts. Gellman is the editor of Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach College in Prison (2022). Gellman is the author of Indigenous Language Politics in the Schoolroom: Cultural …

Silke Marynissen

Silke Marynissen is a PhD fellow conducting fundamental research for the Flemish Research Foundation at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). Her research focuses on informal learning and music participation in prison, viewed from the perspective of realist science. She is a member of the research group Participation and Learning in Detention (PALD).

Torfinn Langelid

Torfinn Langelid, a candidatus philosophiae in history, is a former senior advisor at the County Governor of Vestland. He was the national coordinator for correctional education in Norway, a member of the Nordic Network for Prison Education for many years, and a member of the steering committee of the European Prison Educa- tion Association (EPEA) from 1997 to 2007. He has published articles, reports, and books on prison education and historical perspectives of correctional education.

Aislinn O’Donnell

Aislinn is Professor of Education in the Department of Education and is also a member of the Centre for Public Education and Pedagogy.

She received her PhD from the University of Warwick in 2001, having undertaken her studies under the supervision of Keith Ansell Pearson. Her PhD was examined by Paul Gilroy and Christine Battersby. She was awarded both AHRB funding and University of Warwick Funding. She was awarded a Master in Philosophy from University College Dublin where her thesis …

Jennifer Coreas

Jennifer Coreas is the coordinator and cofounder of the program Literacy for Reconciliation for ConTextos in El Salvador and Chicago. She holds degrees from El Salvador in English as a second language and applied linguistics, and she received a master’s degree in English from Middlebury College in 2018. Her work extends from curriculum development and teaching to advocacy, training, and facilitation of dialogue. She has led the work and the vision for ConTextos’s work in prisons and …

Dominika Temiakova

Dominika Temiaková is an assistant professor in the Department of Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, at the University of Constantine the Philosopher in Nitra (Slovakia). Her research focuses primarily on the theory and practice of adult education, specifically penitentiary education and staff training. She is the author of the publication Penitentiary and Post-Penitentiary Education (2015, writing as D. Kadlubeková), and Education of Women in Penitentiary Conditions, which …

Marek Lukac

Marek Lukáč is an associate professor at the Institute of Romani Studies at the University of Prešov (Slovakia). His research focuses on social exclusion, the education of marginalized adult Romani, and the education of incarcerated persons. He has pub- lished books and articles related to the education of Romani adults, second-chance education, social exclusion, and education in prison. He is a member of the executive committee of the Association of Adult Education Institutions (AIVD) in …

Max Kenner

Max Kenner is the executive director and Tow Chair for Education and Democracy at the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), which he founded as an undergraduate in 1999. A pioneer among college-in-prison programs, BPI enrolls over three hundred incarcerated students full-time in academic programs culminating in degrees from Bard College; Bard is also home to the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, which cultivates leaders and institutions in its field, nationally and internationally.

Justin McDevitt

Justin McDevitt is the director of the Women’s College Partnership, a program of the Notre Dame Programs for Education in Prison (NDPEP) in the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame and in collaboration with Marian University and the Bard Prison Initiative. Before that, he served as assistant director for alumni affairs and reentry for the Moreau College Initiative, also a program of NDPEP and in collaboration with Holy Cross College (IN). Justin has taught courses in …

Liesbeth De Donder

Liesbeth De Donder is Professor Adult Educational Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel where she teaches the course “Civil Society and Community Development” and three courses on “Research Methodology”. Her research focuses on (1) Social gerontology – social participation and inclusion of older adults, active caring communities, safety and elder mistreatment; (2) Participation and learning in detention – formal, non-formal and informal education of prisoners; and (3) has a …

Gioacchino Lavanco

Gioacchino Lavanco is a professor of Psychology of Community and director of the Department of Psychology, Educational Science, and Human Movement at the University of Palermo (Italy). He is a trainer for the Prison Service and a lifelong educator. He is also the author of several articles and books about social services and well-being in the community, including “Adolescenti e giovani detenuti fra legalità e cultura criminale: la gestione degli eventi critici” (Adolescents and young …

Maria McKenna

Maria McKenna is a joint faculty member of the Education, Schooling, and Society program and the Department of Africana Studies and an Institute for Educational Initiatives fellow. A Professor of the Practice, her research and teaching focus on the social contexts of American education, educational equity, youth empowerment, and peace education.

McKenna’s research can be found in a variety of peer-reviewed journals. Her most recent collaborative work, The Handbook of Montessori …

Grzegorz Skrobotowicz

Grzegorz A. Skrobotowicz, PhD, MBA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Executive Law, Faculty of Law, Canon Law, and Administration at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) in Poland. He received his PhD in 2012 from KUL, with a dissertation entitled “Mediation in Criminal Proceed- ings: Enforcement of Mediation Settlements in Research.” His latest research is on why mediation, an extremely important tool for restorative justice, is rarely used in …

Massimiliano Schirinzi

Massimiliano Schirinzi is an English lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Educational Science, and Human Movement at the University of Palermo (Italy). He is a teacher of Italian L2/LS, a linguistic and cultural mediator, and an oral examiner at the University for Foreigners of Perugia (Italy). He is also the coauthor of the book In Partenza: An Introduction to Italian (2013, with R. Guarino) and coauthor of the articles “Immigrant Prisoners in Italy: Cultural Mediation to …

Dorien Brosens

Dorien Brosens is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Sciences of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and a senior postdoctoral researcher at the Flemish Research Foundation (Belgium). She is one of the coordinating members of the research group PArticipation and Learning in Detention (PALD). Her research mainly focuses on peer programs, active citizenship, and innovative types of learn- ing in prison.

Silvia Lukacova

Silvia Lukáčová is an assistant professor at the Institute of Pedagogy, Andragogy, and Psychology at the University of Prešov (Slovakia). In her research, she focuses on education of the incarcerated, second-chance education, and the education of adults from socially excluded communities. She has published several books and scientific articles and is one of the leading experts on second-chance education in Slovakia.

Chester Lee

Chester Lee is the director for Faculty and Academic Support Services on Emerson College’s Kasteel Well campus in the Netherlands. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and he received his master’s degree in media communication technology and policy from Macquarie University in Australia. He went on to complete his PhD in 1997 at Macquarie University, specializing in cross-cultural communications. His academic concentration is …

Michelangelo Capitano

Michelangelo Capitano has served a long professional career within the Police Jus- tice and Juvenile Prison in Palermo, Italy, including as the director of Italian Juve- nile Services. Now retired, his publications on the subject of incarceration include “Devianza adolescenziale. Dalla norma sociale alla norma giuridica” (Adolescent deviance: From the social norm to the juridical norm, 2020; with M. Garro); and “I servizi a tutela del minore e della comunità. Il Sistema Giustizia …

Arve Egil Asbjørnsen

Arve Asbjørnsen, PhD, is a professor of logopedics at the University of Bergen. He has published journal articles on language acquisition, cognitive impairments, and learning challenges, and on similar impairments associated with psychiatric disor- ders such as major depression, schizophrenia, and posttraumatic stress disorder. In addition, he has made major contributions to learning in a correctional context. Dr. Asbjørnsen is the leader of the Bergen Cognition and Learning Group, which …

Walter Hammerschick

Walter Hammerschick is a vice head and senior researcher at the Department of Applied Sociology of Law and Criminology (IRKS) of the University of Innsbruck, located in Vienna, Austria. He earned his doctorate in law from the University of Salzburg followed by postgraduate studies in Sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, United States. Before fully dedicating his professional career to scientific work, he worked for the Austrian Association for Probation Assistance and Social …

Natasha Maria Bidault Mniszek

Natasha Bidault Mniszek is a coordinator of the Higher Education Program for Social Reintegration Centers of Mexico City (PESCER) of the Autonomous Uni- versity of Mexico City (UACM). She previously served as the director of multiple reintegration sites in Mexico for incarcerated people and returning citizens. She holds a master’s degree in crime prevention and penal systems from the Legal and Penitentiary Investigation Institute in Mexico City.

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