The Prison Education Project

  • Renford ReeseEmail author
Original Paper


This article briefly compares the prison system in the United States with progressive correctional systems in the world, before pivoting to discuss the lessons learned from the author’s development of the Prison Education Project (PEP). PEP has expanded educational opportunities for inmates in 12 Californian correctional facilities. With the assistance of 800 university student and faculty volunteers, PEP has serviced approximately 5,000 inmates in these facilities since 2011. By providing academic, life skills and career development programming, PEP aims to educate, empower and transform the lives of incarcerated individuals. This article is a summary of the development of PEP, examining programme outcomes and highlighting implementation, fundraising and branding strategies. The robust spirit of volunteerism is also a central component of the discussion, with the phenomenon of “reciprocal reflex” at the heart of the PEP volunteer experience. This reflex ignites the passion and gratitude of both volunteers and inmates. The volunteers learn just as much as they teach, and the inmates teach just as much as they learn. The fact that each group shows deep gratitude to the other for the learning experience creates an exciting symbiotic loop and an esprit de corps which inspires and empowers all involved. The “reciprocal reflex” leads to lifelong learning. This article captures the intricate dynamics of how PEP has evolved into the largest volunteer-based prison education programme of its kind in the United States.


Prison education Lifelong learning Volunteering 


Projet d’éducation en prison – L’article aborde brièvement le système pénitentiaire des États-Unis d’Amérique par rapport aux systèmes carcéraux progressistes de la planète, avant d’approfondir les enseignements tirés lors de la réalisation par l’auteur du projet d’éducation en prison (PEP). Ce dernier a dispensé des mesures éducatives dans 12 structures carcérales de la Californie. Avec le concours de 800 étudiants et professeurs bénévoles, il a desservi depuis 2011 environ 5 000 détenus dans ces structures. À travers des programmes de compétences classiques et pratiques ainsi que de développement de carrière, le projet vise à instruire, à autonomiser et à transformer la vie des citoyens incarcérés. L’article synthétise l’élaboration de ce projet en en présentant les résultats et en détaillant les stratégies de mise en œuvre, de financement et de promotion. L’esprit puissant de volontariat est une autre composante centrale de l’analyse, le phénomène de « réflexe réciproque » se trouvant au cœur de l’expérience de bénévolat. Ce réflexe génère un enthousiasme et un sentiment de gratitude tant chez les bénévoles que chez les détenus. Les premiers apprennent seulement ce qu’ils enseignent, les seconds enseignent seulement ce qu’ils ont appris. Chaque groupe exprime envers l’autre une profonde reconnaissance pour l’expérience d’apprentissage, ce qui engendre un cercle symbiotique stimulant et un esprit de corps qui inspirent et autonomisent toutes les personnes impliquées. Le « réflexe réciproque » mène à l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie. L’article capte la dynamique complexe au cours de l’évolution de ce projet, qui est devenu le programme d’éducation en milieu carcéral porté par des bénévoles le plus vaste de ce type aux États-Unis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature, and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Political Science DepartmentCal Poly Pomona UniversityPomonaUSA

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