We present this working discussion paper in the hopes that it will start a conversation around how to best develop a robust and ethical research infrastructure supporting higher education in prison. Existing elements of such an infrastructure can serve as a launching point to orient the field, and we encourage your feedback on what we have proposed and on elements we may have missed or misrepresented. The paper suggests places where the field can grow and reinvent or readjust current relationships, agreements, and incentives to better serve learners and the broader HEP community. Finally, we offer strategies to expedite the development of an HEP RI.

In order for this project to be successful, we will need the input and engagement of stakeholders across HEP, especially currently and formerly incarcerated learners. We especially are seeking feedback on how the initial strategies we propose may interact with specific and varied HEP contexts across the nation, and what other initiatives or actions may be needed to create a just and sustainable RI. We invite you to submit your comments, suggestions, and questions through the “share your thoughts” feature or the prompts embedded throughout this online version of the document.1 We also encourage you to disseminate this paper through your professional and personal networks in order to maximize the amount of input that will inform the next stages of this work. Lastly, we invite you to sign-up to join our project mailing list to receive email alerts regarding relevant project updates and various events we will be hosting on our digital space in the future.

We currently stand on the cusp of expanding HEP to hundreds of thousands of incarcerated adults, and the realization of the incredible opportunity that provides for them, for their families and communities, and for the nation. We hope you will join us in facilitating the development of a research infrastructure for and by the field that will ultimately improve conditions for conducting research, create an interdisciplinary community of practice, and ensure quality programming and positive outcomes for incarcerated learners now and in the future.

Would you be interested in joining us during the next phase of this project as we workshop viable strategies for facilitating an HEP RI with small groups of diverse HEP stakeholders?
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  1. This project will make hardcopies of the PDF version of this paper, and ways for to provide feedback and responses to its contents, available for distribution to incarcerated individuals in the U.S. Details will be provided on our Resources page.