Toward Abolition Pedagogy: Teaching Social Justice in Prison Combined Classrooms




Combined classes, Inside-Out classes, prison higher education, penal abolition, critical pedagogy


Combined classes have emerged as a component of secondary education in prisons, and bring undergraduates from “outside†together with incarcerated students. They provide a context in which to encourage engaged dialogue, as well as a forum for cross-cultural exchange between the non-incarcerated and the incarcerated. Understanding penal abolitionism as a continuum, we argue here for the necessity of critical, penal abolitionist pedagogy in combined classes in prisons. In a political climate fraught with challenges to democracy, and ongoing racial injustice, a penal abolitionist pedagogy must engage the socially responsive, civically minded and transformative mission of education. We explore the challenges of using abolition pedagogy inside the prison setting and acknowledge the limitations of critical education in prison and elsewhere to achieve racial justice and abolition. We also offer examples from coursework that encourage students from very different social positions engage theories of justice and liberation in dialogue.

Author Biographies

Michelle Ronda, Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY

Assistant Professor and Criminal Justice Program Coordinator Department of Social Sciences, Human Services, and Criminal Justice

Ragnhild Utheim, Purchase College/SUNY

Ragnhild Utheim is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Liberal Studies at Purchase College (SUNY), where she also coordinates the Liberal Studies Program.


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