100 books like Critical Perspectives on Teaching in Prison

By Rebecca Ginsburg (editor),

Here are 100 books that Critical Perspectives on Teaching in Prison fans have personally recommended if you like Critical Perspectives on Teaching in Prison. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of College in Prison: Reading in an Age of Mass Incarceration

Mneesha Gellman Author Of Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach College in Prison

From my list on college in US prisons.

Who am I?

I have been involved with teaching in prison for the last 22 years, and have taught everything from creative writing to meditation to college classes across carceral facilities in New York, California, and Massachusetts. As the founder and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative at Emerson College’s campus at Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord, I constantly work with faculty and students who are navigating the teaching and learning environment under some of the most adverse circumstances. These books have helped me feel less alone in this work.

Mneesha's book list on college in US prisons

Mneesha Gellman Why did Mneesha love this book?

In Daniel Karpowitz’s book, he takes readers behind the scenes in college-in-prison classrooms to explore what a liberal arts education can offer people who are incarcerated, and the educators who facilitate them. Karpowitz was a mentor and a guide as I was building my own college-in-prison program. His steadfast belief in the human capacity for transformative learning shines through in these accessible, riveting pages of what it means to read the canon from a position of marginalization.

By Daniel Karpowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked College in Prison as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The nationally renowned Bard Prison Initiative demonstrates how the liberal arts can alter the landscape inside prisons by expanding access to the transformative power of American higher education. American colleges and universities have made various efforts to provide prisoners with access to education. However, few of these outreach programs presume that incarcerated men and women can rise to the challenge of a truly rigorous college curriculum. The Bard Prison Initiative, however, is different. As this compelling new book reveals, BPI has fostered a remarkable transformation in the lives of thousands of prisoners. College in Prison chronicles how, since 2001, Bard…


Book cover of American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment

Mneesha Gellman Author Of Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach College in Prison

From my list on college in US prisons.

Who am I?

I have been involved with teaching in prison for the last 22 years, and have taught everything from creative writing to meditation to college classes across carceral facilities in New York, California, and Massachusetts. As the founder and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative at Emerson College’s campus at Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord, I constantly work with faculty and students who are navigating the teaching and learning environment under some of the most adverse circumstances. These books have helped me feel less alone in this work.

Mneesha's book list on college in US prisons

Mneesha Gellman Why did Mneesha love this book?

I could not stop reading this book once I started, and I stayed up late into the night glued to its pages. Bauer, a journalist, takes us inside the prison where he got a job as a correctional officer. Through engrossing prose that pairs his daily experiences with carefully researched historical context about incarceration in the United States, Bauer shows what prisons represent in real time. 

By Shane Bauer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Prison as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An enraging, necessary look at the private prison system, and a convincing clarion call for prison reform.” —NPR.org

New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018 * One of President Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2018 * Winner of the 2019 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize * Winner of the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism * Winner of the 2019 RFK Book and Journalism Award * A New York Times Notable Book 

A ground-breaking and brave inside reckoning with the nexus of prison and profit in America: in one Louisiana prison and over the course…


Book cover of Higher Education Accessibility Behind and Beyond Prison Walls

Mneesha Gellman Author Of Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach College in Prison

From my list on college in US prisons.

Who am I?

I have been involved with teaching in prison for the last 22 years, and have taught everything from creative writing to meditation to college classes across carceral facilities in New York, California, and Massachusetts. As the founder and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative at Emerson College’s campus at Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord, I constantly work with faculty and students who are navigating the teaching and learning environment under some of the most adverse circumstances. These books have helped me feel less alone in this work.

Mneesha's book list on college in US prisons

Mneesha Gellman Why did Mneesha love this book?

McMay and Kimble’s edited volume brings together a wide range of case studies looking at some form of higher education behind bars. Meant to showcase many different forms of higher education in prison, this book underscores the diversity of what higher education in prison can look like. In each case study, strengths and challenges of a given approach are visible and provide an honest look at how to support learners in a range of circumstances.

*Disclaimer—I have a chapter in this volume.

By Dani V. McMay (editor), Rebekah D. Kimble (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Higher Education Accessibility Behind and Beyond Prison Walls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Numerous studies indicate that completing a college degree reduces an individual's likelihood of recidivating. However, there is little research available to inform best practices for running college programs inside jails or prisons or supporting returning citizens who want to complete a college degree. Higher Education Accessibility Behind and Beyond Prison Walls examines program development and pedagogical techniques in the area of higher education for students who are currently incarcerated or completing a degree post-incarceration. Drawing on the experiences of program administrators and professors from across the country, it offers best practices for (1) developing, running, and teaching in college programs…


Book cover of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom

Mneesha Gellman Author Of Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach College in Prison

From my list on college in US prisons.

Who am I?

I have been involved with teaching in prison for the last 22 years, and have taught everything from creative writing to meditation to college classes across carceral facilities in New York, California, and Massachusetts. As the founder and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative at Emerson College’s campus at Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord, I constantly work with faculty and students who are navigating the teaching and learning environment under some of the most adverse circumstances. These books have helped me feel less alone in this work.

Mneesha's book list on college in US prisons

Mneesha Gellman Why did Mneesha love this book?

Ok, this book is not specifically about teaching in prison, but it is about teaching from an abolitionist perspective, which is relevant to the same readers interested in teaching in prison. I first read it as part of a National Alliance for Higher Education in Prison’s book group, along with my colleagues from the Emerson Prison Initiative. Love makes the argument that education merely for survival does a disservice to humanness, and transactional education reinforces social hierarchies. Alternatively, abolitionist teaching looks to connect education to liberation.

By Bettina L. Love,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Want to Do More Than Survive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2020 Society of Professors of Education Outstanding Book Award

Drawing on personal stories, research, and historical events, an esteemed educator offers a vision of educational justice inspired by the rebellious spirit and methods of abolitionists.

Drawing on her life’s work of teaching and researching in urban schools, Bettina Love persuasively argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities through radical civic initiatives and movements. She argues that the US educational system is maintained by and profits from the suffering of children of color. Instead of trying…


Book cover of Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms

James Kilgore Author Of Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time

From my list on mass incarceration.

Who am I?

I've been a social justice activist all my life. In my younger years, I turned to violence to bring about liberation. That landed me a federal arrest warrant which I avoided for 27 years by living as a fugitive. I spent most of that time in southern Africa, joining freedom movements against apartheid and colonialism. Arrested and extradited to the U.S. in 2002 I spent 6 1/2 years in California prisons while observing the impact of mass incarceration. I vowed to direct my energy to end mass incarceration through grassroots organizing. Since then I've been a writer, researcher, and activist in my local community of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois as well as being partner and father to my two sons.

James' book list on mass incarceration

James Kilgore Why did James love this book?

As public awareness of mass incarceration has grown, reformers, and even law enforcement, have attempted to build alternatives, policies, and institutions they argue are alternatives to prisons and jails. These alternatives include policies like electronic monitoring, drug courts, halfway houses, lockup mental health facilities, and court supervision. In this book, Law and Schenwar systematically demolish the notion that such initiatives do anything more than widen the net of incarceration. In their view, these “alternatives” create programs and institutions based on the notion that altering the form or style of punishment will eliminate mass incarceration. Instead, they argue this requires the elimination of the paradigm of punishment and the establishment of programs outside the criminal legal system that provide freedom and opportunities for targeted populations. 

By Maya Schenwar, Victoria Law,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Prison by Any Other Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a new afterword from the authors, the critically praised indictment of widely embraced "alternatives to incarceration"

"But what does it mean-really-to celebrate reforms that convert your home into your prison?" -Michelle Alexander, from the foreword

Electronic monitoring. Locked-down drug treatment centers. House arrest. Mandated psychiatric treatment. Data driven surveillance. Extended probation. These are some of the key alternatives held up as cost effective substitutes for jails and prisons. But in a searing, "cogent critique" (Library Journal), Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law reveal that many of these so-called reforms actually weave in new strands of punishment and control, bringing new…


Book cover of The Septembers of Shiraz: A Novel

Germaine Shames Author Of Between Two Deserts

From my list on finding peace amid conflict.

Who am I?

I tell stories that make issues achingly and inescapably personal. After covering the first Palestinian Uprising for two winters as a correspondent and witnessing firsthand the gamut of senseless tragedies behind the headlines, I realized that hard news could never convey an iota of the deeper story I was gleaning. I turned to fiction writing and won my State's Literary Fellowship in Fiction. I learned that I can find light in the most horrific situations and leave readers with hope. Having earned a Masters degree in Intercultural Studies, I write from a global perspective with the conscious aim of fostering intercultural, interracial, and cross-gender understanding and healing. 

Germaine's book list on finding peace amid conflict

Germaine Shames Why did Germaine love this book?

Revolutionary Iran was the wrong place to be Jewish and wealthy. Septembers of Shiraz paints a poignant portrait of a family targeted, plundered, and driven to the brink of ruin by a corrupt extremist regime. The beauty of the story is that the more these protagonists lose, the more they realize how little their possessions and status actually matter. Their true wealth resides in their love for one another and the hope of a brighter tomorrow. 

By Dalia Sofer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Septembers of Shiraz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As Isaac navigates the tedium and terrors of prison, forging tenuous trusts, his wife feverishly searches for him, suspecting, all the while, that their once-trusted housekeeper has turned on them and is now acting as an informer. And as his daughter, in a childlike attempt to stop the wave of baseless arrests, engages in illicit activities, his son, sent to New York before the rise of the Ayatollahs, struggles to find happiness even as he realizes that his family may soon be forced to embark on a journey of incalculable danger.


Book cover of Papillon

Paul Wood Author Of How to Escape from Prison

From my list on escaping prison and helping you change your life.

Who am I?

I was imprisoned for murder as an 18-year-old. I was a high school dropout who was addicted to drugs and didn’t have any hope for the future. Each of the books recommended contributed to my own journey of transformation. I read them all while I was in prison. Some of them while I was in maximum security or solitary confinement. Each recommendation helped me escape that life and its horrors. 

Paul's book list on escaping prison and helping you change your life

Paul Wood Why did Paul love this book?

Papillon is about wrongful imprisonment and then escape from a hellhole of disease and brutality. I read it when I was in maximum security prison constantly fearing for my life and wishing things were better.

This story made me realize that I had a lot to be grateful for by comparison. It made me take stock of all the ways my own prison experience was a fortunate one. From this book I learnt to stop feeling sorry for myself by focusing on the ways that things could be worse.

By Henri Charriere,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Papillon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An immediate sensation upon its publication in 1969, Papillon is a vivid memoir of brutal penal colonies, daring prison breaks and heroic adventure on shark-infested seas.

Condemned for a murder he did not commit, Henri Charriere, nicknamed Papillon, was sent to the penal colony of French Guiana. Forty-two days after his arrival he made his first break for freedom, travelling a thousand gruelling miles in an open boat. He was recaptured and put into solitary confinement but his spirit remained untamed: over thirteen years he made nine incredible escapes, including from the notorious penal colony on Devil's Island.

This edition…


Book cover of The Last Detail

Martin Limón Author Of War Women

From my list on GI life as told by GIs.

Who am I?

I spent 20 years in the US Army with 10 of those years in Korea. Everybody thought I was crazy. Why would you like being stationed in such an odd country as Korea? Whenever I tried to explain, their noses would crinkle and they’d stare at me as if I were mad. I started collecting books that explained better than I did. To supplement it I purchased a manual Smith Corona typewriter at the PX and to assuage my angst began writing mystery stories about two 8th Army investigators in Seoul, Korea. Fifteen novels and over 50 short stories later I’m still attempting to explain the odd beauty of GI life through the eyes of a GI.

Martin's book list on GI life as told by GIs

Martin Limón Why did Martin love this book?

In the early 1970s, when I was a Buck Sergeant in the US Army stationed overseas in Korea, I received a small package from my cousin. He was a year older than me and in the Navy and stationed at Subic Bay in the Philippines. What was odd about the package was that he seldom mailed me anything, and certainly nothing that would be more trouble than a brief letter. I opened the package and therein lay a paperback copy of The Last Detail.

The story starts out with Petty Officer First Class William Buddusky, better known as Billy Bad-Ass, passed out drunk in the Day Room in the barracks, still in dress uniform with an almost empty bottle of cheap wine next to him. Immediately, I recognized a kindred spirit. A lifer, an enlisted man, and somebody who lived in the real world of the military as I…

By Darryl Ponicsán,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Detail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Acclaimed Novel That Was the Basis for the Classic Movie Starring Jack Nicholson

Unlike other branches of the armed services, the Navy draws it police force from the ranks, as temporary duty called Shore Patrol. In this funny, bawdy, moving novel set during the height of the Vietnam War, two career sailors in transit in Norfolk, Virginia Billy "Bad-Ass" Buddusky and Mule Mulhall are assigned to escort eighteen-year-old Larry Meadows from Norfolk to the brig in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he is to serve an eight-year sentence for petty theft. It's good duty, until the two old salts realize…


Book cover of White Man's Justice, Black Man's Grief

Omar Scott Author Of Loyal To A Fault

From my list on sexy, suspenseful urban inspired crime.

Who am I?

I had a friend that I knew since junior high. He was a straight-A student. He had both parents in the home. His future was bright. He spent the last minutes of his life hiding under a car after being shot several times during a drug deal gone wrong. He made poor decisions that cost him his life. I wanted to write about people who took the wrong path and found their way out. Growing up in a single-parent household, I turned to the streets and gangs. After incarceration I decided to not only turn my life around but to write fiction inspired by criminal activity that I had engaged in during my youth. 

Omar's book list on sexy, suspenseful urban inspired crime

Omar Scott Why did Omar love this book?

This was the first book I read about street culture. It was real. It was graphic. It was intense. I could relate. Goines is known for capturing the urban struggles and the challenges of young men and women growing up in the ghettos. The main character Chester Hines gets caught up in one bad decision after another until he ends up in jail trying to survive. It’s a fantastic story and Goines himself is a classic storyteller who paved the way for endless black authors to pen their street-life experiences. 

By Donald Goines,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Man's Justice, Black Man's Grief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The godfather of urban lit, Donald Goines knows life on the streets is a one-way ticket to life behind bars, where suffering is the one and only daily bread. For the first time in over a decade, his classic White Man's Justice, Black Man's Grief is now repackaged and reissued with a whole new look to attract new listeners, as well as long-time fans of the legend himself.

Barely out of his 20s, Chester Hines knows the score. He's just another bug crawling through the streets of Detroit, waiting to be squashed under the heel of a system meant to…


Book cover of The Note Through the Wire: The Incredible True Story of a Prisoner of War and a Resistance Heroine

Frank Romans Author Of Warriors of Ameraulde

From my list on keeping you turning the pages in anticipation.

Who am I?

I love a book that pulls you into the story, one where maybe you see yourself in the characters. As a boy, I loved to read and would lose myself in books. I find I am drawn to many different types and genres, but especially military or crime dramas. My favorites include historical references and in my own writing I often place characters in an actual historical event, but with a fictional outcome. The most important thing to me is creating a character who is interesting enough to make the reader want more. My personal military experiences were used to begin my first novel while the characters came to life.

Frank's book list on keeping you turning the pages in anticipation

Frank Romans Why did Frank love this book?

I am a sucker for war-time love stories, and the tragedy of this one is it is true. An exceptional piece of writing about courage and love, set in the middle of the most heinous, horrific events of modern history. A simple, crumpled note passed between strangers through a barbed wire fence begins weaving a true tale, a love story rivaling that of Romeo and Juliet.

By Doug Gold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Note Through the Wire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An unforgettable love story set in perilous times' Heather Morris, author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The greatest love blossoms in the darkest hour.

In the heart of Nazi-occupied Europe, two people meet fleetingly in a chance encounter. One is an underground resistance fighter; the other a prisoner of war. A crumpled note passes between these two strangers and sets them on a course that will change their lives forever.

The Note Through the Wire is the stunning true story of Josefine Lobnik, a resistance heroine, and Bruce Murray, an imprisoned soldier, as they discover love in the midst of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in prisoners, teachers, and education?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about prisoners, teachers, and education.

Prisoners Explore 92 books about prisoners
Teachers Explore 62 books about teachers
Education Explore 95 books about education