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Beyond Prisons—Episode 17: Prison Workshops feat. Dr. Breea Willingham

Dr. Breea Willingham joins the Beyond Prisons podcast to discuss her prison research, her writing workshops with incarcerated women, and her experiences as someone with family directly impacted by the system.

Dr. Willingham talks about how her experiences inform her work despite the traditional resistance of the academy to approaches that are not considered “objective”—even if it is highly relevant to the research. We talk about the farce of objectivity in both academia and journalism, and the need to put forward the perspective of people directly impacted by a particular subject.

We also examine Dr. Willingham’s work regarding writing programs for incarcerated women. She talks about her research, in which educated, white, middle and upper-middle class women instructors were forced to negotiate their race and class privilege in their workshops, and their reactions upon finding that their students were human beings, too.

We also touch on how some activism and scholarship approaches incarceration voyeuristically, treating other people’s misery as a curiosity or source of inspiration.

She discusses how writing workshops are liberating for incarcerated women and provide a way for them to resist their confinement, providing one of the few therapeutic opportunities for women to share and work through the trauma that so often paves their paths to prison.

Dr. Breea Willingham is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Plattsburgh State University of New York. She worked as a newspaper reporter covering crime and education for 10 years before entering academia. Dr. Willingham’s research areas/interests include: Black women’s prison writings, higher education in prison, Black women and police violence, the impact of incarceration on Black families and children, and women in the criminal justice system. She is currently writing a book about teaching and writing in women’s prisons.

Visit Dr. Willingham’s website: breeacwillingham.weebly.com

Follow Dr. Willingham on Twitter: @drbreewill


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Music & Production: Jared Ware

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Screen grab via Justice Department on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYR4iciX_m8
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