Dr. Lukas Carey completed his Doctorate in education and has worked in the field for most of his working life as a coach, teacher, trainer and educator. While filling a role in local government he was charged with receiving secret commissions and served time in Prison. During that time Lukas used his theoretical lived experience knowledge to study the lives of the incarcerated, the educational happenings inside the justice system and its influence over future employment opportunities upon release.
With an interest in the role previously incarcerated people have in the development of policy and procedure in the justice system, Lukas is a strong advocate for the Convict Criminology stream. The importance of the lived experiences of previously incarcerated people and people from working class backgrounds drive the work Lukas is doing in the education and research field.
Ever made a mistake? Well many people have, and unfortunately the world of academia isn’t as open as it could be to people that own their own mistakes and actions. This letter to academia asks ‘it’ to reconsider the value people who have been previously incarcerated have in sharing their lived experiences. It highlights what they bring to teaching, research and the overall world of academia and proposes that the academic landscape in the world would be better off, including this group of people.
Dr. Lukas P. Carey
My name is Lukas and I am writing to ask you a couple of simple, yet undersold questions that I would really like you to consider. I know you can’t respond, but maybe reading this may influence your mindset. So here goes…
Have you ever made a mistake?
It is a challenging one, and one that many people in the world cannot answer, or more likely do not want to answer. I will answer it on behalf of a whole lot of other people from around the world, and the answer may stop you from reading the rest of the letter.
I made a mistake and it was a bad decision, and now I have a criminal record.
Not what you expected to read? You couldn’t have picked it if you spoke to me, you couldn’t pick it from reading my work and you couldn’t pick it from working with me. But you can see it on the box I have to tick when applying to work for you, and the background check you will inevitably run on me, before you consider my ability to work with you. Then as the story will go, and seems to always go, for many, you will make a decision, that one error that I have made in my life will haunt me forever, and somehow diminishes my skills and abilities to research, teach and inspire others.
The world of academia, as you know, is mid-stream in the promotion and encouragement of lived experience, and academics and researchers sharing their own skills. Previously incarcerated people, who often enter academics after surviving a working class childhood and often adulthood, bring with them a diverse set of lived experiences you can’t get from a textbook. It might be me that is silly, but how can such an oxymoron exist? You want lived experience in teaching and research, but struggle to recognise the type of person that can help you meet your needs? The answer to that question is clearly a person who has lived, learnt and improved, and can share their experiences with their students and through their research.
Employing a previously incarcerated person that represents the ideal of being a working class academic has been shown to have some distinct advantages to both the employer and employee. It will just take a change in thought by you. Give someone with a background different to the ones you usually go for a shot, look past their stuff up and think about the skills they have, not the mistake they made. If that isn’t enough then consider the following…
- They have already served their time – It seems to be forgotten, that the people applying to work with you not only have Masters degrees, Honors degrees and Doctorates and they have also served their sentence, and are legally free to live, work and be part of the community. Instead of further punishment, in the words of Batman, ‘why not use their powers for good and not evil’.
- They work extremely hard – When you come from a working class background and had to fight to survive, and then you end up in jail fighting for daily survival, one thing is guaranteed; these people know how to fight and work hard. Imagine the effort these people have entrenched in them, and have had to refine daily in their lives? Now imagine having them on your team working with you? Refreshing and actually an easy thing to see. and have shown daily on your team working with you?
- They are loyal – A skill that a large proportion of previously incarcerated people that return to the work force has, is loyalty to those hat have shown it to them. If you take a chance on someone that ticks the criminal record box, it is highly likely that they will be loyal to a tee, and will work extra hard to repay you for that loyalty. They have been told ‘no’ so many times when applying for other jobs, other teaching roles, sessional positions, and academic positions, that they would appreciate your ‘yes’ even more. Academia, imagine having a team member that has your back, works hard, and knows the consequences if they screw up?
Academia, you are telling the world you want more people with lived experience, but are ignoring a large group of people in the community that answer that call. These people have the qualifications, have the knowledge, and have traits that all employers want. They will bring a new level of validity and relevance to your research, and open up opportunities to you that you dream you could access. The challenge has been set, and having spent the last couple of year with you, I know you can accept the challenge, and open your doors to those that own their mistakes. Over to you…