College in the County: Some Justifications and Suggestions for Providing College Coursework in Jail

College in the County: Some Justifications and Suggestions for Providing College Coursework in Jail

Emma Duffy-Comparone (Merrimack College, USA) and Brittnie Aiello (Merrimack College, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3056-6.ch001


Jails often play second fiddle to prisons as sites of higher education programming and research. Jails house those sentenced to relatively short time periods and those held prior to trial. The result—a transient population with uncertain futures—makes for an unstable environment in which to teach and learn. However, jails touch many more lives than prisons and present unique opportunities for educators to intervene at crucial points in the life course. This chapter discusses the specifics of teaching and administering college courses in a county jail. First, this chapter makes the case for jails as important sites for higher education programs within the larger framework of mass incarceration. Second, the wide reach and local context of jails present unique opportunities for colleges and universities providing higher education programming. Finally, the authors provide a potential roadmap for teaching in jail by discussing unique concerns that require creative solutions.
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Jails In The Context Of Mass Incarceration

To explain the importance of higher education programming in jail, we must first understand the broad scope of jails in the U.S. criminal justice system. The failures of mass incarceration are well-documented. American overreliance on incarceration has destroyed families (Arditti, 2016; Wildeman & Wang, 2017), leading to a number of problems for children of incarcerated parents (Aiello & McCorkel, 2018; Wakefield & Wildeman, 2018). Mass incarceration has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, often to the detriment of other social services (Henrichson & Delaney, 2012). At every level, the criminal justice system operates unequally, targeting poor people and people of color (Alexander, 2010; Western & Pettit, 2010). As a result, the incarcerated population is vastly disproportionate by race (Mauer, 2016). Such significant collateral consequences occur despite evidence that mass incarceration does not reduce crime (Lofstrom & Raphael, 2016).

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