Panel F.08 — Prison (Higher) Education as a Tool to Enhance Social Justice

Convenors Lucrezia Sperolini (University of Westminster, United Kingdom); Giulia Di Donato (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy); Rocco Sapienza (Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy)

Keywords social justice, prison education, multidisciplinary, barriers


This panel proposal explores the transformative potential of prison education in addressing social and cultural inequalities and countering the perpetuation of educational dispositives, social barriers, and stigma. We consequently aim to shed light on prison education as a vital springboard for analysing a diverse range of disparities, including social, gender, and geographic discriminations, while considering its methodological implications.

A theoretical approach will guide the reflection, nonetheless, the panel aspires to include a diverse range of backgrounds such as philosophy, political sciences, and social sciences. Accordingly, it intends to implement a theory-driven approach enriched with empirical and ethnographic research focusing on case studies. This multidisciplinary approach aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the intricate web of inequalities surrounding education access and its undeniable link to social justice.

In an era where the quest for social justice is paramount, prison education offers a unique lens through which to examine and tackle systemic injustices, particularly related to education poverty and its consequences on individuals from vulnerable backgrounds, geographically disadvantaged areas, and marginalised communities. By delving into the diverse approaches of educational projects with incarcerated individuals, their experience of education, inside and outside correctional facilities, and its transformative potential, this panel aims to foster a deeper understanding of the complex systemic discriminations that affect them, their communities, and society as a whole.

The panel aims to integrate the broader international scope with a more nationally focused analysis of the issues discussed, taking the Italian experience as a showcase to tackle strengths and criticalities in Prison Higher Education and involved implications. Nevertheless, comparison with international experiences will be firmly invited, in order to widen perspectives and exchange helpful knowledge and best practices insights.

With this purpose, possible models of good practices from the international panorama will be presented, with a particular focus on Progetto Carcere, the Higher Education in prison partnership between the University Statale of Milan and northern Italy prisons, and the Convict Criminology research group at the University of Westminster in London. By examining successful initiatives like these, we seek to inspire innovative strategies for expanding access to quality education within correctional settings and redefining the narrative around prison education, democratic access to higher education, and the vicious circle linked to meritocratic individualistic principles in education.

In conclusion, this panel aims to bring together researchers, experts, and advocates who are passionate about leveraging Prison Higher Education as a powerful instrument for dismantling barriers, fostering inclusivity, and advancing social justice. We invite a robust discussion that explores the potential of prison education to empower individuals, reshape personal perspectives, and contribute to a more equitable society, all while addressing methodological implications that combine theory and empirical research to enhance our understanding and inform policy and practice.


Guidelines and abstracts submission