Our work to improve access to knowledge and education for incarcerated students received $800,000 in new support this fall from the Ascendium Education Group, an organization that provides millions of grant dollars to help post-secondary learners nationwide earn degrees and credentials that can substantially strengthen their opportunities for greater social mobility.

Through this grant, our Ithaka S+R and JSTOR Labs teams will tackle one of the most complex, important barriers and accelerants to teaching and learning in prisons: technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it abundantly clear that higher education in prison (HEP) programs and incarcerated students are severely impacted by lack of access to technology and informational resources. However, our current research suggests that the pandemic has also encouraged Departments of Corrections (DOC) to accelerate the adoption of different technologies capable of supporting a variety of teaching modalities.

Ithaka S+R research will assess the evolving technological landscape in prisons by conducting a state-wide scan of existing technologies and exploring issues of censorship, a key component of those technologies. We will also build a small community of practice, bringing together ten HEP programs with their DOC partners to implement, refine, and advocate for increased access to quality technology, information, and instructional resources.

JSTOR Labs will build and test a version of JSTOR that overcomes specific hurdles incarcerated students face in gaining access to high-quality research literature, namely how to provide immediate, internet-based access to material in ways that account for a diversity of DOC media review practices. This proof of concept will be deployed and monitored to enable improvements in partnership with DOC and technology partners providing access across multiple facilities.

Through this work, we aim to improve access for incarcerated students through understanding, advocacy, and the development of solutions that successfully eliminate barriers to access to high-quality, technology-enabled resources.

To learn more, read the Ithaka S+R and JSTOR Labs blog posts about their work.