Speaking Out for Social Justice

The Problems and Possibilities of US Women's Prison and Jail Writing Workshops

in Critical Survey
Tobi Jacobi Colorado State University tobi.jacobi@colostate.edu

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Through community-based literacy work, writing teachers can encourage the development of prison narratives that counter social and media-driven stereotypes of prisoner identity. Such work thus situates writing workshops and other literacy-inspired programming for women as part of the emergent US prison abolition movement. This is a complicated equation to work through, however, given the sometimes competing sponsors of such literacy work and its reception within and beyond institutional contexts. This essay suggests that a nuanced reading of prison literacy programmes and their sponsors is necessary for contemporary educators interested in contributing to both educational prison programmes and the abolition movement. In order to explore such challenges and to illustrate individual and public tactics for emergent social justice, this essay offers sample texts and commentaries from the SpeakOut! women's writing workshop in the western US as a starting point for a larger consideration of the complexities that literacy educators confront when designing and facilitating such programmes.

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