The Organization of Correctional Education Services

Article excerpt


There have been five major types of correctional education organizations over the centuries: Sabbath school, traditional or decentralized, bureau, correctional school district (CSD), and integral education. The middle three are modern organizational patterns that can be implemented throughout a system: Decentralized, bureau, and CSD. The historical pattern is that educators are gradually gaining some authority over correctional education decisions, but the process has been so slow and intermittent that it sometimes escapes observation. This article introduces the basic concepts of the topic, and includes a bibliography of the most salient contributions to the relevant literature.

Correctional education, the education of the marginalized, is marginalized education. One thing that tends to unite. ..correctional educators. the perception that our programs have to be defended. The conditions for education within the institutions can be... hostile and tenuous... (Gehring, 2007, p. 2).


In the United States, K-12 local schooling that is funded with public resources is organized under school districts. This is not an accident. School districts exist to promote school activities, in part through community scrutiny. The school district pattern of organization is a safeguard to ensure that school activities are consistent with public expectations. Those schools that are not organized under school districts are notable as exceptions: for example, the preponderance of institutional schools. These are recognized as anomalous-exceptions because they do not fit the accepted public school norm. Public discussion of democracy in the schools is not mere lipservice; education periodically has been structured to exacerbate student alienation and further particularistic interests. This occurred in Germany under the Nazis, in South Africa under apartheid, in the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs when it was operated under genocidal policy, and throughout the Jim Crow United States prior to the Brown vs. Board decision. In sum, schooling can be used to help or to hurt student and community interests; the purpose of the school district pattern of organization is to promote helpful education.

School districts provide for local control within state and Federal guidelines. In addition to being traditional and predominant, school districts have school boards which are known especially for their fiscal accountability, organizational flexibility, and transparency to outside observers. These capabilities are necessary because of the importance of schools as agents of socialization. In addition, school funds can be mishandled and autocratic control of school activities without internal and external checks can obstruct student maturation and community interests.

A continuum can be conceived between participatory and autocratic management, or between democratic and professional organizations. Over the decades the same local school board can operate according to democratic (participatory), or professional control (autocratic). The school district concept is sufficiently flexible to accommodate a range of organizational behaviors between these extreme approaches. In sum, the U.S. approach to school management, the school district concept, is an accepted platform of public policy. We expect schools that are funded with public funds-public schools in the generic sense-to be managed in school districts precisely because school districts are (a) accountable and traditional, (b) responsive to various guidelines within a framework of local organization, and known for (c) internal fiscal controls, and (d) flexible management. Public education that is not organized in a school district it is anomalous, and should be questioned.

Most correctional education around the country is not organized under school districts-it is anomalous. One salient aspect of correctional education organizational structures is that educators are often not in charge of educational decisions. …