A Re-imagining of Evaluation as Social Justice: A Discussion of the Education Justice Project
Keywords:Higher Education in Prison, Prisons, Higher Education, Correctional Education, Prison Education, Evaluation, Social Justice, Restorative Justice, Advocacy
While efforts to increase access to higher education for incarcerated populations are laudable, the prominent discourse, rationale, and examined outcomes are narrowly defined. Too often program evaluations, especially those within criminal justice contexts, implicitly prescribe values and condone oppressive policies, while claiming neutrality through methodology. What is needed are evaluation frameworks and theories born in opposition to the current ‘gold standard’, which currently fails to consider conditions linked to the many structural inequities of society, and misses the opportunity to advocate for social justice. This paper presents a restorative justice approach to evaluation, conceptualized to address the complex socio-political and cultural dynamics of educational programs within prisons, and as way to bring stakeholders together to generate new meaning and understanding. Vignettes are utilized to illustrate what a restorative justice approach to evaluation might look like within the case example of the Education Justice Project, a higher education program within prison.
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