1st Edition

Understanding the Educational Experiences of Imprisoned Men (Re)education

By Helen Nichols Copyright 2021
    152 Pages
    by Routledge

    152 Pages
    by Routledge

    Understanding the Educational Experiences of Imprisoned Men explores how adult male prisoners interpret and give value to their experiences of education, presenting an opportunity to consider how education can be beneficial to prisoners including and beyond the enhancement of employability skills.

    While the primary aim for education in prison has been to increase employability skills to prevent reoffending, further attention needs to be given to the broader outcomes of educational experiences and the importance of the development of other personal attributes including self-confidence, empowerment and the ability to engage in positive relationships. This book considers how education is also used by men in prison to cope with prison life, to reconsider their identity and to develop and maintain relationships. It also discusses the relationships that prisoners have with their teachers and other prison staff as well as the relationships that different types of prison staff have between each other. In addition, the role that education can play in the process of desistance from crime is discussed to provide an understanding of what changes occur in men who participate in educational courses.

    This book will be of interest to not only students and scholars with an interest in imprisonment, rehabilitation and criminal justice practice, but also educationalists, those who work in the prison setting and in social work. It may also appeal to those involved in community development programmes and broader sociological research.



    1. Prison Education in Context

    2. Finding Voices

    3. Pains and Coping with Time Inside

    4. Shaping and Reshaping Identity

    5. Education and Relationships

    6. Education and Desistance

    7. Understanding Education in Prison


    Helen Nichols is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Lincoln. She researches contemporary imprisonment with specific interests in education in prison, the experience of imprisonment and the sociology of imprisonment.

    "Helen's book, Understanding the Educational Experiences of Imprisoned Men, thus reflects her 10 years of academic and teaching work in prisons, and has again offered invaluable insight to me. Each chapter explores highly relevant themes connected to the educational experiences, identities and journeys of imprisoned men. The first chapter begins by identifying the tension for anyone serving time in prison, or for that matter, working in a prison education department. It is within this tension, Nichols argues, that prison learners and educators must find a way to navigate the many complexities of prison life and the barriers that can impede educational flourishment. In the following chapters, Nichols discusses broad themes such as desistance, identity and relationships on the inside and outside of prison, and how these themes intimately connect with prisoners’ educational journeys through prison. Her reflections are rooted in the words of people on the ground in prison, as each chapter has excerpts from serving prisoners, prison leavers and prison staff collated from her work over the last decade. In the course of these discussions, Nichols introduces the reader, through accessible language and an engaging tone, to some of the most important works of prison sociology. "

    - Angelique Mulholland, Prison Service Journal, Issue 263, pg. 62- 63

    Dr Nichols’ book has for me highlighted the failings in the provision of support for those like myself that wish to study beyond Level 2, and I can only hope that prison Governors and education providers in our prison estate begin to place some resource into the provision of higher education sooner rather than later. Having lived in the closed, prison estate for the past 15 years, it is refreshing to read a book that is balanced and provides a true insight into the prison education system. Understanding The Educational Experiences of Imprisoned Men is not just the typical outsider’s view of prison education, with detailed and considered analysis within each of the seven chapters, supported by contributions from prisoners past and present, and education staff who all provide vivid real-life testimony. Dr Nichols, in writing her book, has put the spotlight back on prison education and ignited fresh debate. Progress in the criminal justice system is always slow, but with a little effort and using this book as a guide, positive changes can be made."

    - Glenn is a life sentenced prisoner at HMP Berwyn, Prison Service Journal, Issue 263, pg.64