Crito Project presents at Université Grenoble Alps Conference

The Crito Project was happy to send Ben Walker to Université Grenoble Alpes to present on our work this week. Grenoble and the UEA are research partners, brought together through the Aurora Universities Network, and both Universities have a track record of commitment to university/prison partnerships. So it was a great opportunity to make connections between the two sister universities when Mireille Baurens invited Ben to present on the Crito Project this week.

Instead of a straight-forward project report, Ben chose to present on the history of US university/prison partnerships, outlining three outstanding examples of success from the past 20 years: Hudson Link, Inside Out and Bard College Prison Initiative (BPI). Explaining the unique pedagogical approaches of all three, and how these led to significant diversity of education provision and ends, Ben went on to explain why the Crito Project chose to take BPI as the exemplary case with which to model the development and priorities of our own project.

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Chief among reasons for this decision were a) BPI’s longitudinal evidence of the success of their work, and the testimony of their alumni, b) their key commitment to ‘transplanting’ university education into the prison classroom, as untouched as possible. This method avoids the temptation to see the design of a prison academic program as an opportunity to make a distinctive political or pedagogical intervention. Finally, c) their commitment to making available their own wealth of expertise and experience to other educators, via their Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison.  

His central premise was that, given the evolution of the field in the face of the adversity represented by the repeal of Pell Grants in 1994, and the myriad of different approaches developed across the US’s 230 university/prison partnerships, any attempts to implement such partnerships in Europe should be guided by the methods, pedagogies, priorities and tribulations that are well documented by experts in the US field.

Ben and Mireille at the ‘Détention et université : pratiques, défis et perspectives’ Conference, May 2019

Ben and Mireille at the ‘Détention et université : pratiques, défis et perspectives’ Conference, May 2019

We’re very grateful to Mireille and the Université Grenoble Alps for their invitation & warm welcome, and very much look forward to working closely with them, and other members of the Aurora Network, in developing expertise and research together.

Crito Project Invited to Speak at University of Wyoming Symposium

The Wyoming Pathways from Prison project has, for the past four years, been pioneering a new type of university/prison partnership in four prison estates across the state of Wyoming. Their Symposium was designed to present on their award-winning work, but also to act as a meeting house for various exponents and experts in the field of University and Prison Partnerships to scrutinise, and learn from, the wide variety of approaches, projects and pedagogies that have evolved over the past twenty years. Rob Colter, a lead tutor and advocate for the project, was kind enough to invite the Crito Project’s own Ben Walker to speak at the event on his development of Stoicism as a key subject in the Crito Project’s curriculum.

The Symposium’s Panel Discussion on Philosophy in Prison, Featuring (from left) Alan Muthig (Wyoming & Pathways From Prison), Damon Horowitz (NYU, Stanford & The San Quentin Prison University Project), Ben Walker (UEA & The Crito Project) and Rob Colter (Wyoming & Pathways From Prison).

The Symposium’s Panel Discussion on Philosophy in Prison, Featuring (from left) Alan Muthig (Wyoming & Pathways From Prison), Damon Horowitz (NYU, Stanford & The San Quentin Prison University Project), Ben Walker (UEA & The Crito Project) and Rob Colter (Wyoming & Pathways From Prison).

Over two days the Symposium’s attendants heard from a panoply of teachers, administrators and researchers. Highlights of the Symposium included:

  • The opening Keynote by the inspirational Jody Lewen, Executive Director of the San Quentin Prison University Project, on the pivotal topic of imagining – and projecting expectations and narratives on to – incarcerated students, and the effect that this can have upon classroom dynamics, justice and representation in the classroom, and teacher/student relations.

  • The panel discussion (pictured) on the role of philosophy in prison, and the following discussion with some of Rob Colter’s remarkable philosophy students, relayed live from Wyoming Women’s Prison.

  • Damon Horowitz’s Keynote on the challenges facing Humanities on campus and the potential for Humanities in prison to revitalise and reorientate the priorities of the discipline as a whole. Damon spoke informally, fluently and persuasively on the intrinsic good represented by cooperative thinking at a sustained higher level, and how this intrinsic good needs to feature in our understanding of University/Prison partnerships, in relation to the consequential goods (such as increased employability and decreased recidivism) that are normally touted as the primary benefits of such partnerships.

Videos and full details of the Symposium can be found on the University of Wyoming’s site here, in particular the video of the two-hour conversation on the place of Philosophy in Prison, featuring our own Ben Walker from the Crito Project, here. The Crito Project is deeply indebted to the University of Wyoming, and in particular Rob Colter, for the invitation to attend and speak at the event. The perspectives and priorities that were argued for at the symposium have already helped the Crito Project in so many ways, and we’re looking forward to being able to implement some of the many ideas that made the event such a lively and challenging success.



UK's Prison Education Contracts are finally settled

The process of alotting education providers to the UK’s various clusters of prisons has finally drawn to a close, and the results signal important changes for our charity. Our partner in provision, People Plus, has more than doubled its range of provision, to 22 prisons in total. Unfortunately, the one prison that has moved in the opposite direct, into the hands of another provider – HMP Whitemoor – was one where the Crito Project had been teaching since 2017, and had built up good relationships and a bright and talented student body.

The change does mean, however, that new partnerships with new Governors are there to be made, and we’re hugely excited by the prospect of teaching at new sites such as HMP Norwich and HMP Highpoint.

Teaching begins on new module: Authorship & Philosophy

The Crito Project is rolling out a new type of module for our students, one designed to help them get up to speed and to gain confidence in close-reading texts. The nine-week module will involve our reading a classic of science fiction together, whilst learning some key techiniques that authors can use to create meaning, ambiguity, complexity and character. We will also be investigating the text through the lense of philosophy, considering reader-response theory, anarchist polticial theory, Daoism, and theories concerning time and causation. If successful, the module will be repeated with different types of text, building towards a three-part series of introductory modules that teach academic good practice and philosophical concepts whilst also introducing exciting and novel ways to read classic works of ficiton and non-fiction.

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Stoicism: our most successful philosophy module

Today marked the start of a new term teaching Stoicism across three sites; Warren Hill, Hollesley Bay and Whitemoor. With its focus on emotional coherence, justice and cosmopolitanism, the ancient Hellenistic school of Stoicism must rank, hands down, as the most popular course we run at the Crito Project. Class discussions of the good life, how we preference different desires, and daily journaling are all features of what make this most practical philosophy so popular. Here’s a few of the many remarks our alumni have made on the module’s effects on them:

“It’s made me reassess certain things, question things…how I was dealing with certain things. I think the course has helped me reflect on my own reality….my self and ideal self…to really think about the reality I created and the reality I want to create.”


“Less impulsive, less susceptible to peer pressure, [Stoicism] has lengthened my fuse. … For them three reasons – through knowing that concept of ‘it’s out of your control’ – yeah, it’s changed me.”


“If I hadn’t been doing what I had being doing in prison on the course…I don’t know where I’d be. I’ve been real serious about the course, it certainly has made me see the past clearly – and also where I want to go.”

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We hit £1,200!

While the walk was only a conditional success, with Ben having to pull up after 320 miles, due to damaging his Achilles tendon, the donations that kept pouring in during his walk were generous, inspirational and will prove hugely important for the continuing success of the Crito Project. A big thank you to everyone who has sponsored the South West Coastal Path walk. The funds will go into registering the project as an CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation), purchasing teaching materials and providing books for prison libraries.

Sponsored 630 mile walk in aid of The Crito Project

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Sponsor Ben

7th July-18th August ... 
630 miles ...
One pair of legs

 

On the 12th July, Ben Walker (our lead tutor) will start his 630 mile-walk along the Southwest Coastal Path, England's longest waymarked footpath. Ben is making the journey to  raise much-needed funds for The Crito Project, so please give generously if you can: the Project receives no institutional funding, and is run entirely on a voluntary basis.  

The Southwest Coastal Path

Running from Minehead in Somerset, up and down along the Jurassic Coast of Devon and Cornwall, and ending in Poole Harbour in Dorset, the path stretches for 630 miles. Generations of coastguards patrolled this coast, checking on lighthouses and searching for smugglers, and today the path still closely hugs each harbour and crannie along the shoreline. The total height climbed has been calculated to be 35,031 m, almost four times the height of Mount Everest.