Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Grace Telesco

Committee Member

Jennifer Allen

Committee Member

Darl Champion


Correctional education, Prison education programs, Selfstigmatization of formerly incarcerated persons


Legislators and correctional administrators are tasked with problem-solving current issues of mass incarceration and high criminal recidivism rates. Part of the solution is to implement successful rehabilitative initiatives through reentry programming. While Postsecondary Correctional Education programs are proven to reduce recidivism and assist formerly incarcerated persons in obtaining employment, little is known about the effects of obtaining a college degree in prison on individual self-stigmatization. Self-stigmatization can occur when a member of a marginalized group experiences poor self-concept. Those with mental illness, criminal histories, addiction, etc. are often viewed as undesirable by mainstream society. In an attempt to manage negative experiences, individuals who have been incarcerated may become isolated, sever personal relationships, and are reluctant to participate in daily activities most citizens experience. As a result, their successful reintegration back into the community may be sabotaged.

To provide a better understanding of the effect education has on formerly justice-involved individuals’ self-stigmatization, this dissertation explores the lived experiences of those persons who have completed their college degrees while in prison. A qualitative method was used to gather data from former students who have participated in correctional education programs.

The resultant data explains individuals’ experiences of self-stigmatization while seeking employment and reconnecting with family and gives perspectives about their futures, since completing their educational programs. The data further details the role education plays in mediating feelings of self-stigmatization for formerly justice-involved individuals. The knowledge will aid correctional administrators in measuring the efficacy of correctional education programs to decide if more programs are needed or if improvements can be made to existing programs to ensure successful rehabilitation and community reentry of incarcerated persons.