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JSTOR Access in Prison Initiative

JSTOR Access in Prison Initiative

Background:

JSTOR has supported higher education in prison since 2007 by providing a tool to support offline access to our collections for incarcerated students.  Since 2019,we have expanded this work with two pilot programs.  First, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we conducted a pilot program to develop new and improved support for offline access.  Second, with funding from The Ascendium Education Group, we have initiated a pilot program to create and test a version of JSTOR to which incarcerated students can gain direct access, progress towards which will be reported on this project page.

We believe that a freely available library of high-quality educational content provided to HEP programs by a mission-based not-for-profit such as ITHAKA can provide a counterpoint to the growing impact of for-profit education and technology solutions in prison, and play a positive role in helping to lower the cost and improve the outcomes and experience of education in prison.

Our goal:

With generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we are launching a three year project to scale access to JSTOR to all higher education in prison (HEP) programs in the United States.  We will provide both offline and direct access solutions that meet programs' and facilities' security requirements while making the student experience as close as possible to that of their peers on the outside.

What we plan to do:

  • Add all US HEP Programs to JSTOR's Access Initiative, eliminating licensing costs to access JSTOR collections.
  • Survey the dynamic and growing community of HEP programs in order to assess need for and ability to implement both solutions.
  • Scale access to both the offline and direct access solutions, working with departments of corrections and HEP programs to implement and support the systems.
  • Enhance both the offline and direct access solutions, always endeavoring to create the best user experience possible. Enhancements include: ongoing refinements to continued refinements to the media review system, and the addition of encrypted, in-copyright full text to the offline solution.
  • Ensure students are able to use JSTOR and other library resources effectively. We will both create materials to help support incarcerated students in learning digital skills and research methods, and explore ways to effectively implement them by working with innovators such as the Clark College Education Department in Washington, who will be designing a research module, using JSTOR, for their college’s highly successful, accredited Peer Tutor Program.
  • Develop and implement a plan to sustain and support this program of access.

To accomplish this work, we will hire two new staff members to lead our efforts to bring JSTOR to incarcerated students: a Manager, JSTOR Access in Prison Initiative, and a Software Engineer. Our aim is to hire people with lived proximity to incarceration and its impacts, and who understand first-hand the complexities and potential impact of this work.  

If you are a prison education program interested in our support for prison education, please let us know!  We'll keep you informed of our progress on the project and, when we're ready, work to provide you and your students access to JSTOR.

This work is part of ITHAKA’s Improving Higher Education in Prisons initiative, a series of work to support justice-impacted individuals, empowering them to improve their lives by increasing access to high-quality higher education programs and library resources in prisons.