JSTOR Access in Prison 2022: A Year of Discovery and Growth

Online and offline solutions for academic research in jails, prisons, and detention centers

Fewer than 2,000 people in prison had access to JSTOR when 2022 began. JSTOR developers were working with test sites to see if the offline servers could deliver the same research experience as the online version to incarcerated people. Outreach was compiling a list of prison education programs, and ascertaining what would make it possible to bring JSTOR to the students attending college while incarcerated. While developers realized the offline server was too technically challenging for most sites to install, outreach realized the list of prison education programs omitted the educators working inside prisons, but outside the formal support system of colleges and universities. The entire team convened in Ann Arbor, Michigan to brainstorm, collaborate, and find the solutions that could transform the academic research landscape inside jails and prisons.

The offline server was a noble aspiration we abandoned in favor of creating a more robust thumb drive index for offline use. The offline index is so nimble it has become the de facto solution for sites with minimal tech and great need for academic research resources.

The use of online version of JSTOR Access in Prison reflects the limited availability of internet-based resources available to incarcerated people:

One surprise was the willingness of some sites to use the unmediated version of JSTOR inside jails and prisons. We have disabled article sharing and chat features upon request for correctional use of the full JSTOR option. The majority of sites offering full JSTOR limit its use to students actively enrolled in higher education. Mediated JSTOR, the version customized for correctional settings with a built-in media review policy, can operate in a similar way to full JSTOR. One state system bulk approved the entire database - affording an opportunity to restrict access to a specific article if it is problematic.  Some projects are live in 15 minutes - others have been in progress for the whole year. Target dates often shift as new information becomes available, or sites cycle through different hardware options until they find the solution that works.

2022 provided JSTOR Access in Prison myriad opportunities to work with DOCs and higher education in prison programs across the United States - even Australia and New Zealand. We have worked through challenges unique to each system and incorporated knowledge from each project into our approach and design improvements. We ended the year with just under 200,000 incarcerated people having access to JSTOR. For 2023, we will continue to build on these relationships and challenge ourselves to meet the demands of higher education in prison programs and encourage the intellectual curiosity of currently incarcerated learners.

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