There is debate about whether education in closed environments such as prisons is effective. Is it a utopia? Will students see results? There are many opinions about education in prison. A branch of social education called social education in prison can shed some light on these questions.
Scarfó (2002) explains that education is the foundation of the citizen’s identity. “He who does not get or use this right loses the opportunity to be part of society. He cannot truly participate or be a true citizen exercising his rights and fulfilling his duties for the benefit of the development of society.”
It is from these ideas that the Resolution on Education in Penitentiary Institutions was designed. It came from the Education International 5th World Congress (Berlin, Germany, July 2007). This resolution explains the need to include social education in prisons.
Prison education is not just a challenge. It is a right and a deontological principle. The goal should be to develop the autonomy of each prisoner despite being incarcerated.
Theories about education in prison
Let’s look at some different theories about prison education. In this way we will then better understand this particular branch of social education.
This type of theory interprets criminal acts from the point of view of individual psychopathological and biological factors. They have been very relevant in the history of criminal behavior and treatment in prison. Authors like Eysenck are great examples of these models. (1)
It is also important to note that other authors of the social psychology school of thought offer ideas that do not only consider the factors of individual personality. (3, 4)
Sociological theories about education in prison
These theories relate to multidimensional and structural factors. They are thus based on the idea that systems and social, educational, cultural and family relationships influence the genesis of criminal behavior. (1) Examples are the theory of inequality of opportunity or the theory of social deviation. (5.6)
Professor Miguel Melendro explains that over the past century we have developed certain perspectives and models. They enrich and improve the methods of socio-educational intervention in disadvantaged population groups in a remarkable way.
Some disciplines have thus played a role in the development of socio-educational models for education in prison. We give some examples.
- Behavioral approaches.
- Dynamic perspectives.
- Systemic therapy for families.
- The competency model.
- public education.
Socio-educational programs in penal institutions
According to Garrido and Gómez (1995), prison education has traditionally followed certain models. These technological models are scientifically based (within medical frameworks from the behavioral tradition that seek attunement to the person and are present in positivist pedagogy).
The classical education models in prisons try to get the students to produce certain social frameworks without taking into account contextual and sociocultural variables. (1)
The programs that prisons use the most are generally remedial ones. They are usually based on behaviorist models of reinforcement or punishment. The people who apply these models often believe that they are the best choice. These models are divided into four groups:
- The psychological and psychoanalytic model.
- The biological-behavioral model.
- The factor model.
- The humanist model.
There are also other humanistic and recent models. We give an overview.
The participatory model
In the participatory model, socio-educational rehabilitation in prison should involve the entire community. However, these are mainly the prisoners. So the idea is that everyone carries the process together. The inmates voluntarily take up the rehabilitation process. (1.9)
The autonomy model
These are educational programs on an individual level and in a group. (10)
The model of gender emancipation
These models can take a two-pronged approach. For example, the first part is intended to help the inmates overcome the socio-cultural and structural criminalization experienced by women with a criminal record. (11,12)
The second part then focuses on the development of equality between men and women in the prison setting. (13,14)
Knowledge models and models of pedagogical action
The essential aspect of these models is a collective agreement about the work that inmates do in prison. In this approach is also the pleasure that the inmates find in what they do, and the educational relationship between the inmates and the teachers. (1)
Liberation models for education in prison
These models believe, for example, that return to prison renews intervention in prison on a professional and structural level. The challenge is therefore to transform prison spaces and concepts into opportunities for freedom.
So, as you can see, there are many alternative models for prison education. Yet it seems that today the behaviorist and individual models still predominate. Do you think it is possible to further develop one of these models in the near future?