Archived: Education Techniques for Teaching Ex-offenders or Returning Citizens


The jail’s student population differs from that of most schools.  Additionally, students self-select to attend class. As a result, it is of important to attend to these differences in order to maintain an acceptable attendance level.

The jail populace is ripe with mental deficits and many adult students possessing less than an elementary education.  Furthermore, most students maintain learning styles not typically catered to in the average classroom.

As a result, an instructor may need to utilize teaching techniques formerly unfamiliar to them.  The instructor must be careful not to extend students academically beyond their range as this can lead to disenchantment and disengagement with the learning process.

The prison population has a disproportionate amount of kinesthetic and visual learners.  This contrasts auditory learning, the style of learning most catered to in the traditional learning environment.  Unlike auditory learners, who can learn through lecture, visual learners understand and recall information better when it is presented in the form of graphics, moving media, and visual demonstrations.

On the other hand, kinesthetic learners learn best by doing.  These students are often incorrectly labeled as being overactive.  Since most traditional education environments do not cater to these students, many end up feeling ostracized and discontented with education and in many cases systems as a whole.

As a result, many prisoners resist participating in educational programs.  Therefore, the challenge of instructors is how to incorporate those who have been disenfranchised back into the educational fold.  This task is made more difficult due to security restrictions that prevent the use of many of the teaching strategies that are suited to these types of students.

Education seeks to achieve two basic goals, understanding and memory recall.  These goals are interrelated as studies prove that one is more apt to remember what he understands and one is more able to understand information tied to that which he already knows.

The web method of instruction capitalizes on the interconnectedness of these two goals by attaching new information to as many pieces of currently held information as possible, creating a metaphysical web.  Information is perceived in relation to previously held information, allowing it to be understood from multiple perspectives.

Furthermore, this method increases the amount of recall cues attached to a piece of information allowing the memory to be more salient and therefore easier to recall.  The web technique is made increasingly useful because of its adaptability to multiple learning profiles.

The web method of instruction allows kinesthetic learners to attach information to physical action, forming a personal sign language that can be used to understand information as well as recall it.  One such example is learning to count with one’s fingers.

The technique also fares well with visual learners; for example, representing numerical data spatially through graphs.

The web method’s adaptability makes it a useful tool in a teacher’s arsenal.  The web method of instruction is only one of many techniques which can be institutionalized as an accessible approach for learning.

If more curriculum development was geared towards the implementation of the web method, educators, teachers and professors could potentially see vast improvement in the achievement levels amongst the academically behind clientele of prison industrialized complexes


Jeremy Bamidele was born and raised in Southern California.  He is an adjunct faculty member at Rancho Santiago Community College in California and currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he is completing graduate school in Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania.  He can be reached at


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