Behind the fences: a phenomenological study of the lived experience of a prison classroom teacher



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Texas Tech University


The existing knowledge base concerning the prison system is designed to analyze costs, constmct budgets, determine trends, and collect information concerning demographics or inmate profiles. There are considerable gaps and deficiencies in many areas of corrections education, not the least of which is the voice of the teacher. The purpose of this study is to attempt to understand the meaning of events that constitute the lifeworld of a classroom teacher in an adult prison classroom. The goal is to report the findings from the perspective of a teacher actually engaged in the practice of correctional education.

Faced with the compelling statistics and the sense of mystery shrouding the prison classroom, the following research question guides this study: What is the lived experience of a classroom teacher in the prison system?

For this study where the emphasis is placed upon the lifeworld of the teacher in the prison classroom, qualitative methods appear to fit best with the question under study. Phenomenology as a theoretical framework spplies constructs and guidelines that complement and illuminate the focus of this sudy.

This phenomenological study represents one participant's perspective concerning events and happenings that constitute the lifeworld of a teacher in the adjudicated setting, one possible interpretation of the nature of teaching behind the fences.

This study examines realities for corrections educators and points out some ethical and moral compass points for those new to the practice of corrections education. The findings underscore the importance of making this system more transparent to educators, taxpayers, and legislators. Some of the findings point to distasteful policies that undermine the effectiveness of corrections educators.