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National Conference on Prison Higher Education

National Conference
on Prison Higher Education

Year of Funding: 

This conference aims to further coalition building among prison-based higher education programs, regionally and nationally. It seeks to continue the process of identifying and moving towards shared goals, begun at the Strategies for Action Conference sponsored by the Education Justice Project at the University of Illinois in October 2010.

Panels At A Glance:


4:00-9:30 pm
Site Visit to WSR Monroe Correctional Facility (pre-registration before October 1 required)

5:00 pm:         
Screening of SEAN PICA’s ZERO PERCENT, CMU 120 (view trailer)


9:00 am:  Welcome & Coffee

9:30 – 11:00 am:  

  • Moderator: Vik Bahl, Green River Community College
  • Jenifer Drew, Boston University Prison Education Program
  • Carol Estes, University Beyond Bars
  • Nalini Nadkarni, University of Utah
  • Kaia Stern, Prison Studies Project, Harvard University

This panel gives us a chance to discuss teaching in the prison context.  Is there anything unique about teaching inside prison? Have you found specific obstacles or opportunities teaching in this context?  Are there particular strategies that you have used to create a learning environment or to reach learning objectives?  Can you discuss one example of pedagogical experimentation that met with success or failure and reflect on what you learned from this experiment?  How important is pedagogy in creating successful learning in this environment?

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11:15 am-12:45 pm:  

  • Moderator: Tanya Erzen, Ohio State University
  • Melissa Crabbe, Inside-Out
  • Simone Davis, Inside-Out
  • Kenneth Parker, St. Louis University Prison Program
  • Loretta Taylor, WWCC at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

This panel gives us a chance to share program models and to consider how programs are designed to meet specific needs within a range of contexts.  Is there one program model that meets a wide range of needs/contexts?  Or are all models necessarily different?  Are there common approaches to working with the Department of Corrections, with host Universities/Colleges, and with student populations?  What kinds of record keeping, admissions and enrollment processes, advising, and teacher training have you found effective?  How do you use a Board of Directors, advisory committee, or other governing bodies?  How much/little structure is suited to a prison higher education program?  What would make a model scalable (expandable to other institutions) and is that desirable?

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12:45-1:30 pm: Lunch Break

1:30 – 3:00 pm:   

  • Moderator: Carrie Mathews, University of Washington
  • Rebecca Ginsburg, Education Justice Project
  • Mary Gould, St. Louis University Prison Program
  • Jody Lewen, Prison University Project
  • Stephen Meyer, RMC Research

This panel gives us a chance to collaborate on best practices for assessment within prison higher education programs.  Why is it important to document what works and what does not?  For whom are we documenting our success and how can we disseminate our findings most effectively?  How do we design assessment that measures success as defined by funders or a broader public?  How do we design assessment that measures our own standards for success, which may be different among programs as well as between programs and funders? Are there common goals that we can assess across programs?  How do we relate student learning assessment, effective teaching assessment, and overall program assessment? I'm also interested in knowing what other programs' evaluation protocols--i.e. what are the on-the-ground logistics of their evaluation practices?  Who collects data? From whom?  In what form?  Who evaluates it?  How and with whom is data shared?

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3:15 - 4:45 pm    

  • Moderator: Stuart Smithers, University of Puget Sound
  • Celia Chazelle, Center for Prison Outreach and Education (TCNJ)
  • Stephanie Haas, College and Community Fellowship (CCF)
  • Sean Pica, Hudson Link
  • Kyes Stevens, Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project

This panel gives us a chance to share ideas about program sustainability and access to higher education behind bars.  How important is a well-rounded fundraising strategy to sustaining higher education programs inside prisons?  What are the obstacles and opportunities presented by working with major foundations, with state contracts, and/or with private donors?  Has anyone met success with grassroots or community-based support campaigns?  What kind of institutional support is required to sustain programs over time: from Universities/Colleges, from the Department of Corrections, from volunteers/staff?  Are grassroots, public media, and/or legislative campaigns important to sustain programs and access to higher education on the inside?  What kinds of connections to broader higher education initiatives might help in this work?

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5:00 pm        
Closing Comments: Bernie Warner, WA Department of Corrections

5:30-7:00 pm        
Simpson Center Reception, CMU 202

7:00 – 10:00 pm    
University Beyond Bars Silent Auction Fundraiser

(sponsored by University Beyond Bars)
Lake City Elks Club
14540 Bothell Way NE


9:30–11:00 am:   
Roundtable Discussion: Moving Forward

Moderator: Gillian Harkins, University of Washington

11:00 am–12:00 pm:   
NW Regional Coalition Meeting


Registration Information

Registration for the Prison Higher Education Conference has reached capacity and is now closed.

The Friday evening film screening, Nov 4, is open to participation and does NOT require registration.  All other session require registration.

If you are registered for the conference, and need to cancel your attendance, please contact


Information for Registered
Conference Participants

Please note that Saturday, November 5 is a UW Football Home Game Day. This will affect the availability of non-meter parking in the University District as well as the price of lot parking.


We recommend that you use the Central Plaza Garage located at 15th Ave NE at NE 41st St.

Friday night, November 4:
The evening parking rate begins at 5 p.m. and is $5.00/night.

Saturday, November 5
The regular game day parking rate is $30. However, we have arranged a $10 parking fee if you (1) park in Central Plaza Parking Lot (off 15th Ave NE), (2) identify yourselves with the TEBB Conference, and (3) leave the lot before 7:30 pm.

Sunday, November 6: 
Campus parking is free.

Campus parking may be paid with cash or a Visa/Mastercard.

Transportation Alternatives

If you can bus, walk, or carpool to campus, particularly on Saturday, we recommend that you do so.

Metro Transit
Many bus lines run through the University District.  A trip costs $2.50.  To search routes and timetables, visit:

Lead Organizers

  • Gillian Harkins (English)
  • Anne Dwyer (English)