Jackson, draped in a clean white T-shirt that rests atop oversized gray pants, slides his chair forward toward his desk. His goatee is well-trimmed, perfectly drawn across his upper lip and around his chin. He is full of jokes—before class, after class, and sometimes even during class. When he laughs, he flings his head backward, letting the bellow of his own wit rumble from his diaphragm. His thick-framed black glasses slide down to the edge of his nose as he pores over excerpts from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” Although a jester, full of quips, he is also deeply focussed. He is bent over the book, his eyes a few inches from the page. He looks away only to give a quick glance at his notepad, insuring that his pencil is accurately reflecting his ideas and his synthesis of the text. Jackson, whose name I have changed to protect his identity, has been in prison since he was sixteen. He is twenty-five now, and says that receiving an education is the only thing that has kept him going. “I feel pride when I carry this notebook around,” he says.