About me/education; After qualifying as a teacher in 2005, I specialised in working with learners with emotional behaviour needs. Many of the learners I worked with had experienced severe family dysfunction; including witnessing and experiencing violence in their home setting. Alongside my teaching career, I researched into the prevalence of male violence against women and children, particularly in the domestic setting. As well as taking part in activist events, I wrote about the phenomenon of gender based violence, in its many different forms, in the UK, and in international contexts.
By undertaking a Masters degree at UCL in Education, Gender and International Development in 2014, I developed a strong theoretical understanding of the importance of education in the life of a child who has experienced personal, social or systemic disadvantage; my dissertation focussed on the children of sex workers in Kolkata, where I researched the outcomes of children who had been able to interact positively with education, despite huge challenges in their home life. Throughout my Masters, I became increasingly interested in masculinities, particularly problematic or extreme masculinities often associated with gender based violence. I began the transition into teaching adult male prisoners alongside my Masters degree, where my skills in supporting disaffected learners were developed further as well as my understanding of the educational trajectories of men who have committed violent crime.
My research; Many prisons in the UK are at crisis point, and have been for a number of years.
As well as funding cuts, part of the problem is that many prisoners deal with the “pains of imprisonment” – emotional turmoil, deprivation – by using behaviours associated with extreme or problematic masculinities, including violence, self-harm and excessive drug use. The evolving identities of prisoners neither begin or end in prison, instead they are a complex combination of their personal histories and broader expectations of gendered cultural norms. This study poses the question of whether evolving identities and overall well-being can be influenced by new ideas through dynamic educational intervention.
The complexity of the behaviours, practices and identities of male prisoners demands an equally complex approach which must be interdisciplinary in nature. My proposed approach is the Capability Approach (CA). The CA focuses on the “conditions” – economic, social, cultural and political – that people live in, and how these conditions either enhance or inhibit their ability to live a full, flourishing life. However, this approach does not explain why people behave in certain ways. This study therefore proposes to use current theories on masculinities which are rooted in gender theory, as well as drawing upon research from the field of psycho-social studies.
The difference my research makes; Although research into prison masculinities is increasing, the willingness to understand the role of gender in criminality is still in its infancy. Furthermore, the need to take into account the histories of prisoners is also an emerging practice within prison research. The importance of education in the rehabilitation process is recognised in government policies, but education and development of critical thinking skills on the behaviours fuelled by problematic masculinities that led to crimes being committed, and that indeed continue to be committed in prison, is yet to marry up.
As a prison educator and researcher I will explore the effectiveness of educational intervention on the well-being and identities of men in prison and whether their behaviours can be transformed or influenced for the better – for themselves, their families and wider society.
Location: UCL IoE