Emancipatory Pedagogy in Prison: Participatory Action Research and Prison/University Partnerships

Gillian McNaull, Katharina Swirak, Kathleen White, James Cronin, Maggie O'Neill, Shadd Maruna

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Increasingly, researchers, practitioners and policymakers in the fields of
criminal justice, criminology and associated professional practices are realising their responsibility to consider their roles in reinforcing, mediating or dismantling the persisting power differentials that remain between those ‘delivering’ criminal justice interventions and those receiving them. What might appear as a ‘lofty’ and abstract ideal is, however, neither novel nor unique. Research and practice traditions which draw on ‘lived experiences’ of criminal justice in the co-production of knowledge, including Convict Criminology, are increasingly finding their way into mainstream policy, practice and academic research.
This paper draws from the North–South TOGETHER collaboration, which seeks to
research and share with others on the island of Ireland transformative teaching and research practices in university–prison classrooms. Co-produced learning can dismantle the barriers between those affected by the criminal justice system and those who are not. We invite readers to consider how the methodological approach of participatory action research (PAR) can produce ‘symmetrical reciprocity’ in the relational field of research, while concurrently feeding into professional praxis, in our case as educators, but equally imaginable for those practising criminal justice in different capacities. We suggest that pedagogy emphasising relationship building, mutuality and conviviality, foundational elements of PAR, can produce more meaningful types of knowledge or ‘evidence’, transforming our individual praxis and reimagining design of the delivery of justice.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages35
Specialist publicationIrish Probation Journal
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Oct 2023


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