Irene C. Baird
We’re only teaching them how to live within an institution. We’re not rehabilitating them. They can learn to get through here to do easy time, but this may not necessarily help them on the outside.
—Female prison guard (Watterson 1996)
Adult education literature gives weak voice to the issues of women, people of color, and other ethnic groups (see Chapters 3, 5, and 7 in this volume). From that perspective, this chapter addresses the interlocking and marginalizing effects of sexism, racism, and classism within one particular group: incarcerated women. Until the emergence of feminist research within criminal justice, corrections studies centered primarily on men, who are the majority in the penal system and who commit the more serious crimes. Even though males represent a significant number of those who actually participate in adult basic education or continuing education activities, their educational needs receive little attention (see James, Witte, and Tal Mason 1996 as one exception). More disturbing, however, is the unequal treatment of female offenders, whose numbers continue to rise. The perception is that since they constitute only about 7 percent of the overall prison 1 population, it hardly seems worthwhile or practical to attend to their educational needs (Wolford 1989; Belknap 1996). Highlighted in this chapter, therefore, are some of the issues affecting these women and suggestions on how we, as adult educators, might learn to effectively respond to them.
While the literature on women’s participation and involvement in adult education is weak, the dearth of research regarding women on the margins of main-