Disappearance of the "invisible students": The policy and people of higher education in New York State prisons

Margarita Anne Cabral-Maly, Fordham University


This qualitative research study investigated the unique educational enterprise of prison higher education from the viewpoint of the various participants. The study, therefore had two main purposes. First, it explored the mission of higher education in the rehabilitation of prisoners from the personal, human perspective. Second, it identified the economic, historical, philosophical, political, and social factors that resulted in the loss of funding that led to the demise of the program. The legislative and historical review of the elimination of the Pell Grant and Tuition Assistance Programs, the interviews with legislators, bureaucrats, advocates, program directors, current and former student-inmates, and the document review all suggested that a collection of causal factors prompted the elimination of funding for student-inmates and the elimination of post-secondary correctional education programs. Political, economic, and social factors collectively caused the demise and collapse of funding for the student-inmates. No one factor or leader singularly facilitated the collapse. The role of the government, the economic realities of the 1990s, and the level of societal decay were consistent themes that evolved during the research. The humane perspective of correctional educational theory was deconstructed during the study, and the data suggest that the "prison educational experience" yielded the same identifiable outcomes as for traditional students. Furthermore, the informants voiced that they were aware that the pendulum had once again swung back to the right and back to the correctional theory that supported a punishment mode. Therefore, it can be concluded that through the empowerment of former student-inmates the educational community, and special interest groups, the public can be exposed to the positive outcomes of post-secondary correctional education on offenders from the human perspective. It is suggested that this exposure then will stimulate a public debate and will establish a new public forum and possible advocacy for post-secondary education in prisons. The "invisible programs" and "invisible students" will gain an identity and voice.

Subject Area

Higher education|School administration|Adult education|Continuing education|Criminology|Public administration

Recommended Citation

Cabral-Maly, Margarita Anne, "Disappearance of the "invisible students": The policy and people of higher education in New York State prisons" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9729600.