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Two Professors Find Inspiration Teaching in Prison

Aviva Taubenfeld and Lisa Jean Moore taught courses off-site at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.

Taubenfeld, associate professor of literature and writing, and Moore, professor of sociology and gender studies, taught at the Bedford Hills Correction Facility (BHCF), a maximum security prison for women, as part of a program run by Marymount Manhattan College, which offers AA and BA degrees to qualified inmates.

A Short Ride, A World Away

While only 18 miles from campus, at first BHCF seemed like another world to Taubenfield, who taught literature, and Moore, who taught Social and Cultural Change. The professors had to pass through intimidating barbed wires and metal detectors to enter their classrooms. However, once there, they found students excited to learn and contribute to the discussions. 

“I have found it to be an amazing, moving, painful, disconcerting, and inspiring experience.  As a literature professor, I am often asked by students (and friends), ‘What can I do with this? Why is this important?  What’s the point?’  My students at Bedford Hills don’t ask these questions. Literature, humanities, critical reading and thinking are the point.  They are inherently and profoundly meaningful for the women I teach.   Nothing can beat that!” says Taubenfeld.

For Moore, working with her 18 students has been extremely rewarding. “I’ve found the students prepared, eager, and expressive and writing at a really high level. I feel lucky to be a part of this program, and I know the students appreciate being in the classroom. They come in having done the reading and ready to engage with the materials.”

Moore’s students read books about issues such as reproductive rights, climate change, and discrimination. She introduces them to each theory, and frames everything through the lens of social justice.

She looks forward to returning in the spring to teach Animal Studies for the undergraduate students.