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Courses Offered in Prison Education



English 345: Prison Literature

English 345: Prison Literature, a special topics course taught in-class and online, provides an introduction to selected US prison literature. US prison literature is a rich field, one that extends from textual moments such as Hawthorne’s “Prison Door” chapter opening The Scarlet Letter (1850) to major modern novels such as John Cheever’s Falconer (1977), which emerged from his work as a writing teacher at Sing Sing prison. The course considers prison literature as an integral part of US literary and rhetorical history; as a vehicle for civil disobedience; as an exploration of socially invisible worlds; as resistant autobiography; and as a genre model for US social self-comprehension. The goal is to provide students with a short survey of prison literature – particularly in the US Southwest – and to explore critical ideas about the intersection of incarceration and literature.

Syllabus (2015 online, PDF) – eng345-prison-literature-syllabus-spring-2015.pdf

Syllabus (2014 in-class, PDF) – eng-345-prison-literature-syllabus-spring-2014.pdf

Syllabus (2011 online, PDF) – eng-345-summer-2011-syllabus.pdf


English 484/584: The Pen Project

English 484/584: The Pen Project debuted in 2010. It is a prison-university internship organized in cooperation with the New Mexico Corrections Department and the Arizona Department of Corrections. The semester-long internship course occurs in both Fall and Spring and employs a Blackboard management platform as a digital bridge between (a) inmate-writers in New Mexico and Arizona and (b) upper-level Arizona State undergraduates, who provide typed critiques of inmate-produced poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction prose.

Most of the writer-inmates live in maximum-security units, are under lock-down 23 hours per day, and have no access to regular education programs. Handwritten work is collected by prison staff, mailed to ASU instructors, scanned into Blackboard, and transcribed by the interns. The interns then employ the critical skills they have learned over the course of their undergraduate education to critically comment on the inmates’ writing. This individualized instruction provided by interns is edited by the instructors, transferred through Blackboard back to the prisons, printed in hard copy, and hand-delivered by prison staff directly to prisoners in their cells. ASU writing interns currently coach about 150 inmates who, together with the interns, produce between 1500 and 2000 pages of writing and critique per semester.

English 484/584: The Pen Project is unique. To our current knowledge, there is no other writing project in the United States that partners a university with maximum security inmates via online technology. This online internship is a model for development and expansion.

Some of the first Pen Project interns organized the Prison Education Awareness Club (PEAC) to work both within the university community and with the community at large. As part of its awareness mission, PEAC facilitates the Prison Education Conference on the ASU campus each March, now in its fourth year, with attendees from around the state and keynote speakers from around the country. PEAC has hosted, among others,  Kyes Stevens (Alabama Prison Arts & Education Project), Judith Tannenbaum (Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin), John Burroughs Medalist Ken Lamberton (Wilderness and Razor Wire: A Naturalist’s Observations from Prison), journalist Alan Elsner (Gates of Injustice: The Crisis in America’s Prisons), Hudson Link Executive Director Sean Pica (Zero Percent: A Hudson Link Documentary), retired detective Marshall Frank (Criminal Injustice in America: Essays by a Career Cop), and poet Richard Shelton (Crossing the Yard: Thirty Years as a Prison Volunteer).

Syllabus – 484syllabusspring18feb2016.pdf

Application Information – PenProjectApplicationSpring2019Rev20Sept2018OptiFillable


English 584: Florence and Eyman State Prisons

Graduate-level internships are offered for classes taught once a week at Florence and Eyman State Prisons. Since 2010, the Department of English has provided courses in creative writing, linguistics, history of English, Shakespeare, TESOL and – in cooperation with other departments – also provides courses in art, biology, Chinese, math, philosophy, psychology, and theatre. The internship operates in close cooperation with the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Syllabus – eng-584-syllabus-spring-2011.pdf

Application Information- Prison Teaching

ENG 584 Online Portfolio (used w/permission)