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The Prisoner & The Professor

A DePauw University sociologist is team teaching a course with a convicted murderer. “I teach Prison History & Culture as an upper-level, elective, sociology course at a small Midwestern liberal arts college,” Rebecca Bordt writes in the latest issue of Radical Teacher. “The course fits with the department’s goal to empower students to critically analyze on a macro and micro level the major institutions in society and examine how power within those institutions is mediated by social class, race, and gender.”

“Typical students are 18-21 years old, Caucasian, and economically privileged.” Bordt makes clear that she is out to deprogram them.

“The majority come with the assumption that prison is the solution to the problem rather than a problem in and of itself,” Bordt claims. “The prison industrial complex, prison slavery, mass incarceration, entrepreneurial corrections, the collateral damage of the prison industry, and convict disenfranchisement are terms foreign to my students’ intellectual repertoire and experience.”

“Few have read the academic literature on prisons.”

Bordt’s teaching partner in PH & C goes by the pen name K. C. Carceral. He is the author of Behind a Convict’s Eyes.

“He has been incarcerated in both state and private facilities ranging from minimum to maximum security,” Bordt writes. “Carceral describes himself as fifty years old and moderate to liberal in his political beliefs.”

Their students had to read his book and write essays on it. “Both semesters that I used this assignment, only a few students chose not to participate,” Bordt recounts. “The reasons ranged from not feeling comfortable sharing their work with the author (‘because he is a convicted murderer’) to not having turned their papers in on time.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org.