Inside Voices: Collaborative Writing in a Prison Environment


  • Alexandra J Cavallaro California State University, San Bernardino
  • Melissa K Forbes University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Larry Barrett
  • Robert Garite
  • Chris Harrison
  • Reginald Jones
  • Igor Kazakovs
  • Otilio Rosas
  • Luis Saucedo
  • Tobias Thurman
  • Agustin Torres
  • Antonio Walker


multimodal composition, incarceration, collaboration, writing pedagogy, prison writing, prison education


This article explores how notions of collaboration in the writing classroom are challenged and altered when that classroom is located in a medium-security prison. Based on a for-credit multimodal writing course co-taught by the lead authors, this text (itself a collaboration between the instructors and ten of our incarcerated students) unpacks the processes and practices through which communication is regulated by the institutional authority of the prison (collectively termed the Carceral Communication Framework, or CCF) and places them in conversation with the innovations demanded by the prison’s technological constraints. Contending that collaboration in a prison setting tactically subverts the CCF and provides agency to people who are systematically disenfranchised, we focus on two different dimensions of that process: collaborations between students and teachers and collaborations between the students themselves.

Author Biographies

Alexandra J Cavallaro, California State University, San Bernardino

Alexandra J. Cavallaro is an assistant professor of English at California State University, San Bernardino. Her current research interests include queer literacies and rhetorics, multimodal composition, and critical prison studies. A devoted bookworm, she owns far more books than clothes, so prepare to see this outfit again. In her spare time, she knits socks, works on plans for the Secret Gay Agendaâ„¢, and collects terrible corny jokes (i.e. What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?)

Melissa K Forbes, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Melissa Forbes is a doctoral candidate in writing studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and steadfastly believes that classroom writing should have tangible impact on the world. Her research focuses on online comment sections because she believes that they, too, have tangible impact on the world.  In her off hours she sings karaoke, drinks coffee, and wrestles in costume for crowds of adoring fans. Only two of these are true.





Issue #15