The Digital Divide among the Incarcerated Women in the United States: A Case Study from New Jersey

The Digital Divide among the Incarcerated Women in the United States: A Case Study from New Jersey

Heather A. McKay (Rutgers University, USA) and Patrice K. Morris (Rutgers University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-699-0.ch017


A computer-based learning (CBL) program in the New Jersey women’s prison system is helping to bridge the digital divide among the incarcerated. The hallmark of this program is a computer-based learning process that begins in the prison environment and follows an inmate through the corrections system and into the community. The program provides access to computers through computer labs, use of computers in coursework, and computer ownership upon release into the community. Access to information technology helps to develop skills that will be useful for offender’s chances of employment upon reentry and may even help to reduce recidivism rates.
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Incarceration And Education

In the United States today, there are approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated in state and federal prisons (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008). Of those incarcerated in the United States, 115,779 are female offenders and 1 in 100 African American women are incarcerated (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008; Pew Center on the States, 2008). During 2007, the prison population rose by more than 25,000 inmates (Pew Center on the States, 2008), and women are currently the fastest growing group of prisoners in the United States with their incarceration rates rising 1.2 percent in 2007 as compared to 0.7 percent for men (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008). Statistics show that 26,500 people are currently incarcerated in the state of New Jersey; about 1, 400 of whom are female (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008).

Although men and women share comparable experiences that lead them towards incarceration, the path to prison is influenced by gender (WRITE-NJ, 2006). Women’s economic marginality, the high rates of violence towards women, and women’s inferior position in informal economies as well as other factors are all distinctive their incarceration. Women’s criminal offenses also differ from men’s; women rarely commit violent crimes and are most often arrested for economic and drug crimes. Women also generally serve longer sentences than men for the same crimes, and are older at the time of their first incarceration. The average age of a female prisoner in the United States is 31 while men are generally imprisoned in their twenties (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Efficacy: a person’s belief in their ability to accomplish a task

Recidivism: returning to prison as a result of relapsing to criminal behavior

Digital Divide: disparities in access to technology and gaps in technological literacy

Digital Native: a person who grew up with digital technology

Digital Immigrant: a person who grew up before digital technology was prevalent

One-Stop System: Established in United Stated in 1998 through the Workforce Investment Act. One-Stop Career Centers were established in local areas, and are sites where individual’s can access core services and are directly referred to job training and other services within the workforce system.

Blended Model: teaching that includes both individual computer learning as well as organized group activities run by an educator or group leader

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