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Case Study: Knowledge Sharing for Incarcerated Learners by the Vera Institute of Justice

The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) advocates for the expansion of high-quality postsecondary education in prisons to improve the quality of life and increase opportunities post-release for incarcerated individuals. One area of focus within this advocacy is to expand access to broadband and technology tools for learning for incarcerated learners. Through the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell program, nearly 200 colleges are teaching in prisons across 48 states. Those colleges partner with state departments of corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to teach learners in prison. In addition to in-person instruction, corrections departments and colleges are increasingly finding solutions for educational technology that help maintain access to courses during prison lockdowns and bring in different faculty.

For example, in April 2022, Vera co-hosted a webinar with the National Reentry Resource Center and Bureau of Justice Assistance, featuring a panel of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated learners. The panel presented to an audience of individuals working in college-in-prison and related reentry programs about successful practices in prison-based education programs. One panelist from Maine shared the benefits of having regular access to a monitored email account in the prison as an incarcerated learner—a level of access that is uncommon for incarcerated learners across the country. Another panelist from Texas shared that some prisons in the state have computer labs and classrooms with SmartBoard technology. A Texas state prison is piloting a program where two computer labs have limited internet access to allow learners to do coursework through commonly used learning management systems. By highlighting these examples, Vera is able to demonstrate how colleges and corrections departments can integrate educational technology, maintain safe facilities, and strengthen pathways for gainful reentry and employment for incarcerated individuals.