Possibilities for Participatory Education Through Prisoners’ Own Educational Practices
The great difficulty one faces in writing about participatory education and prisoners is appearing to be impartial about crime and criminals. This is especially true today when fear of crime waves and support for “get tough on crime” politics has become so fashionable. An analysis of prisoners that does not presuppose a host of negative stereotypes is presumed to be romantic at best, certainly unrealistic, if not loathsome. The negative myths surrounding subordinate but not deviant groups (e.g., the working poor) are not so restrictive. But speak of prisoners-a word that connotes images of violence and manipulation (i.e., the “con”)—and one assumes that social policies should carry some element of coerciveness. The tolerable limit of
conventional debate is to argue that rehabilitative programs for prisoners should be more therapeutic than punitive. Any discussion that stretches this limit must first refute popular assumptions that policies for deviants are expected to be coercive and to involve sanctions, force, and even sterilization and death (Schneider & Ingram, 1993, p. 339). As if to address the subject of this chapter, Schneider and Ingram noted that deviant groups are “discouraged from organizing, and subjected to the authority of others-including expertsrather than helped to form their own self-regulatory organizations” (p. 339).