Just Education: The Role of Higher Education in Disrupting Mass Incarceration
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. We have just 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners. Since 1970, the number of incarcerated persons in this country has increased by 700%. Of the 2.3 million people currently in prison or jail, however, just 6 percent have access to higher education. Indeed, contemporary higher education policy and infrastructure disregards incarcerated individuals as potential postsecondary students. Even as colleges and universities across the country champion diversity-driven and inclusivity-oriented mission statements, and look to create viable postsecondary pathways for systemically underserved students, only a handful include incarcerated and justice-impacted individuals in these efforts. The University of Minnesota is not currently among them. This course will explore the intersection of higher education and mass incarceration in the United States with a focus on the role of higher education in disrupting the collateral consequences of incarceration and justice involvement. In particular, we will examine the potential for the University of Minnesota to play a pivotal role in disrupting what we call the “ripple effect” of incarceration and justice involvement on individuals and communities in Minnesota. Students will have an opportunity to tour local correctional facilities and both hear from and present to experts in the field, including formerly incarcerated people.