I would like to briefly reflect on a session that I attended during NCPTW, “What’s a Little Barbed Wire Between Peers?: The Challenges and Possibilities of Peer to Peer Tutoring with Incarcerated Students.” Two peer tutors and one program leader from Goucher College discussed the school’s prison education partnership with the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women and the Maryland Correctional Institution at Jessup.
The tutors talked about the need to immediately establish their roles as “peers” with the inmates. They talked about the successes and challenges that come with holding tutoring sessions in a prison, from experiences with students to equipment, institutional, and time limitations. Although they discussed some of the parallels between their program and general writing centers, it must be stressed that these tutors work in an extreme environment. Their notions of authority, student relationships, and the rules they must abide by within the prison environment are incredibly different than anything we encounter at a traditional writing center. I found their work very admirable, and it made me appreciate the larger efforts that writing centers, in conjunction with their larger educational institutions, make in the community.