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Mass Incarceration - Literature and Resources for Teaching

Mass Incarceration

This guide is intended for those who teach about criminal justice and mass incarceration and who want to incorporate the perspectives of formerly incarcerated people.

Classroom Environment

In addition to incorporating more literature that represents diverse viewpoints into the syllabus, it is also important to create a classroom environment where people feel comfortable sharing their own stories on their own terms, if they chose to. Creating a safe classroom environment can be done by following trauma-informed teaching practices that highlight the following: 

Safety – students know what is expected of them through clearly articulated syllabus and assignments


Trustworthiness – students are trusted to complete their own work, rubrics are provided for all major assignments.


Collaboration – students are given the opportunity to collaborate with each other to build a learning community.


Choice - students are given accurate information about what classes they need to take for their degree (this relates more to advising) and choice is built in – if possible – to assignments.


Empowerment – students are empowered to ask questions, provide feedback, take charge of their own learning.

Language and Communication

When looking to engage with system-impacted students from this marginalized population, ​please refrain from using stigmatizing language. Words such as offender, inmate, felon, ex-felon, ​and convict suggest that people are no more than their conviction. Those negative labels only​ serve to dehumanize and re-traumatize the students we serve. We recommend humanizing ​language such as incarcerated people, formerly incarcerated people, returning citizen, and​  justice-involved people, which centers the person, not the conviction.  

Used with permission by creator: James Jackson at Evergreen State College