Second Chance and the Human Right to Learn


  • Ragnhild Utheim Purchase College, The State University of New York



Higher Education in Prison, Reinstitution of Pell Grants for Students in Prison, College-in-Prison, Human Right to Education, Abolition Pedagogy and Education


This article substantiates the need for consolidated government support and coordination of postsecondary correctional education in the United States. The author uses the case of New York as a point of entry to critically examine the human right to learn and transform with dignity – for the millions of people languishing in prisons under mass incarceration— situating the history of higher education in prison within a dynamic network of education providers that emerged across the state. The analysis contends that withholding the right to learn violates a basic human right to (inter)personal growth, and that freedom to learn is fundamentally debased when education embedded in meaningful human relations –absent exploitation, indoctrination or predatory practices— is foreclosed. As such, the threat of fully online modalities and delimited education content comprise a form of censorship that undermines the true value of embodied and diverse learning experiences, with particular ramifications for people in prison.

Author Biography

Ragnhild Utheim, Purchase College, The State University of New York

Ragnhild Utheim is an anthropologist (Ph.D. CUNY Graduate School) and department chair of the Liberal Studies program at Purchase College. She is currently Interim Director of the School of Liberal Studies. Her research interests and publications have focused on restorative justice, prison studies, higher education in prison, social and environmental justice, abolition pedagogy, and critical pedagogy more broadly.