Decarcerating California : a critical trans politics approach to expanding incarcerated students' access to upper-division coursework

This dissertation sought to illuminate some of the critical tensions the California Community Colleges face as they are building higher education partnerships with prisons and jails. This study employed queer methodologies (Sheldon, 2010; Browne & Nash, 2016) in an exploration of the experiences of system-impacted students, as well as the experiences of faculty and program coordinators working in jails and prisons. The research question for this study is: how can California expand incarcerated students’ access to upper-division coursework, particularly for incarcerated womxn and queers. This dissertation includes a self-study about my experiences as a White, genderqueer lesbian teaching in a local jail, as well as a second, constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2017) analysis drawn from formal and informal interviews with prison higher education program coordinators, field notes, program literature, and a variety of other data sources. Critical Trans Politics (Spade, 2017) served as an analytical framework for the findings and implications of this study, which means being explicit about the fact that I am an abolitionist, and accordingly, I see rendering prisons obsolete one of the primary purposes of p son higher education programs. This dissertation is a call-to-action for students, faculty, and program coordinators doing the work to bring high-rigor, high-support, open-access, higher education programs to carceral facilities.