ABSTRACT

Every Friday afternoon from 2015 through 2018, a small group of students and one faculty member from Antioch College co-facilitated a meeting with incarcerated women at Dayton Correctional Institution in Dayton, Ohio. Participants collectively named the group Women Empowering Women. We read a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts, engaged in creative activities (writing, embodied, and visual), and created a blog, zines, and a prison newspaper that showcased our work as well as communicated relevant issues among incarcerated people. In this article, we explore the ways that, even in an oppressive prison context, informal educational spaces can incubate social change through careful attention to process. We look to the literature on radical imagination and prefigurative politics as we consider how pedagogical and community-building practices that, with much intention, create spaces that foreground trust, community, creative self-expression, acceptance, dialogue across difference, and personal growth. The prison is, by design, antithetical to most of the principles and processes that are foundational to our group. We examine some of the successes and challenges over the four years of the program’s existence, and offer an honest look at the problems and possibilities of informal education inside of a prison. While some of our insights apply specifically to prison-based programming, many are applicable to a wide array of educational projects, broadly conceived.

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