Document Type



Doctor of Education


Adult & Higher Education

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Shawn Woodhouse, Ph.D.


Dr. Wolfgang Althof

Dr. Lynn Beckwith

Dr. John Ingram


There are approximately one-third more African American men who are incarcerated than those who are enrolled in postsecondary education. While in prison, African American male inmates are exposed to a variety of experiences such as mental illness and depression. Despite their impaired judgment and reasoning skills, there are some African American male prison inmates who have an avid interest in obtaining an education and completing a college program while incarcerated. Therefore, I documented their experiences in their college vocational programs. The value of a college education in prison is significant for inmate development. It affords inmates the opportunity and ability to organize one’s awareness of new ideas and gain confidence in one’s abilities thus raising one’s self esteem. Educating prisoners is a prudent, pragmatic, and humane policy. Therefore, this research study provided an understanding of the educational experiences of African American male inmates who were convicted of drug offenses. Nineteen African American male student/inmates who are housed in a drug rehabilitation prison center in the Midwestern region participated in an interview. A generic qualitative design was used to provide detailed descriptions of all interviews during the study. The purpose of this study was to understand the perspectives of drug-convicted African American inmates who participated in a college program. The interview questions were designed to create an analysis of their experiences in correlation with the following theories: self-worth theory and self-determination theory. Three thematic concepts that resulted from the study were: (1) motivation to attend college, (2) personal feelings about attending vocational college and (3) factors influencing career choices. The research findings suggested that student inmates who acquired a college education endured a psychological transition from the volition to commit crimes to that of obtaining a college education or vocational skill. They associated obtaining a college education with a change in life that they felt was needed to obtain job skills and pursue personal goals. Many of the student inmates were able to achieve these goals despite having been diagnosed with mental illness and depression.

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