SPUR 2020 Projects: Education

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SPUR projects are listed in alphabetical order by faculty mentor last name.

Educational Leadership & Policy | College of Education
Gender studies | School For cultural & social transformation


Erin Castro, Assistant Professor

The University of Utah Prison Education Project (UPEP) is a multidisciplinary effort assisting incarcerated students and non-incarcerated volunteers to live lives of impact, both in prison and post-incarceration, by fostering academic excellence, leadership, and civic engagement. UPEP began engaging the campus and local communities in 2016 and providing onsite, face-to-face college courses at the Utah State Prison in Draper in 2017. Committed to social transformation, UPEP advances educational equity through onsite higher education, empirical research, and advocacy.

The Research Collaborative on Higher Education in Prison launched in Summer 2017 as part of UPEP and published our first peer-reviewed manuscript in September, 2018. The Collaborative released our first policy brief in June, 2018, and presented at two national refereed conferences in 2017 and 2018: the National Conference on Higher Education in Prison and the Association for the Study of Higher Education. We will present at those same conferences this year.

The Research Collaborative is interested in two central issues regarding higher education in prison: quality (what is being provided?) and equity (who has access?). These two questions drive the work of the Collaborative and we currently have three externally funded research projects all aimed at expanding the provision of quality higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Specifically, the project seeks to provide baseline research regarding postsecondary education in U.S. prison through outreach, internet documentation, and survey research and to qualitatively examine how college-in-prison stakeholders provide and support programming across six different sites.

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