Prison Education Project

Established in 2014, the Washington University Prison Education Project (PEP) offers a fully accredited college education to incarcerated students at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center (MECC) and the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center (WERDCC).  

In Spring 2022, the Studiolab class implemented an archives-centered research course at MECC through the Prison Education Project. The interdisciplinary class, ELit/SOC 440P: The Research Process and the Civil Rights Movement, was designed to assist PEP students in planning and executing capstone projects in the humanities and social sciences. Thirteen PEP students participated in the course, while Studiolab faculty and students were involved either in classroom teaching or in study halls.

Throughout the course, students worked with archival materials related to the Civil Rights Movement, especially with materials developed for the purposes of commemorating that movement in academic history and in documentaries for popular consumption. Thanks to the assistance of archivists from the Special Collections Department of Olin Library, students worked with facsimiles of materials that have received little or no prior scholarly attention, especially those related to Eyes on the Prize from the Hampton archives housed at Washington University. The PEP students also had the opportunity to meet and interview Judy Richardson, one of the producers on Eyes on the Prize.  

Students at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center with Judy Richardson

This course served a range of students and student interests. Some students developed capstone projects based on the archives of the Civil Rights Movement, while others applied research skills to other questions. However, incarcerated students face significant challenges when conducting scholarly research, given limited access to technology, archives, databases, and other resources. To navigate these constraints, students in the Studiolab course served as research assistants, drawing from existing library resources and research guides to locate and send in various requested materials week by week. These research partnerships provided the opportunity to build relationships as students worked on their own projects.  

For more information on PEP or to get involved, visit