While in no way supporting the systemic injustices and disparities of mass incarceration, Gifts from the Dark: Learning from the Incarceration Experience argues that we have much to learn from those who have been and are in prison. Schwartz and Chaney profile the contributions of literary giants, social activists, entrepreneurs, and other talented individuals who, despite the disorienting dilemma of incarceration, are models of adult transformative learning that positively impact the world. The authors interweave narratives with both qualitative and quantitative research references to analyze the role of solitude, writing, non-verbal communication; race and gender; physical exercise; education; technology; family and parenting; and the need to “give back” that precipitate transformative learning. The prison cell becomes a counterspace of metamorphosis. In focusing upon how men and women have chosen the worst moments of their lives as a baseline not to define, but to refine themselves, Gifts from the Dark promises to forever alter the limited mindset of incarceration as a solely one-dimensional, deficit event.
Joni Schwartz is professor of humanities at the City University of New York – LaGuardia Community College and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice Graduate Studies Program.
John R. Chaney is assistant professor and director of Criminal Justice programs for City University of New York -- LaGuardia Community College.
Part I: Adult Transformative Learning and the Prison Experience
Chapter 1: Prison Writing: A Literary Tradition
Chapter 2: Incarceration: The Disorienting Dilemma toward Transformation
Chapter 3: Transformation: A Brave Act
Chapter 4: Understanding the Role of Race and Gender
Part II: Learning that Transforms the Self
Chapter 5: Sitting with Yourself: Cells of Silence and Solitude
Chapter 6: The Organic Intellectual
Chapter 7: Higher & Continuing Education: Attracting the Best Students
Chapter 8: Exercising Body and Mind: Habits and Flow
Chapter 9: Emotional Intelligence and the Prison Experience
Part III: Learning in Relation to Others
Chapter 10: The Black Family and the Incarceration Experience
Chapter 11: The Prison Experience and Technology
Chapter 12: Non-verbal Communication
Part IV: Learning that Transforms the World
Chapter 13: Giving Back
Chapter 14: Criminal Justice Reform: Everyone’s Responsibility
Here, Schwartz and Chaney brilliantly explore the theme of personal transformation enhanced by incarceration…. The authors provide numerous interesting asides, such as discussing pedagogy versus andragogy, finding happiness in prison, and coping with learning during a pandemic. They also discuss Black family cultural dynamics in comprehending the links between race and incarceration and show that electronic monitoring is not proven to support corrections.Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals.
Author interview with NPR: