Reading Street Lit with Incarcerated Juveniles: The Myth of Reformative Incarceration

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Advisor: Patrick Thomas

Second Advisor

Advisor: David Fine


Using a Third Space theoretical framework, this paper investigates how incarcerated juveniles are impacted by the reading of Street Literature. The study uses literary analysis to examine three works of Street Literature to determine what depictions of incarceration the residents of a detention center encounter. The results from qualitative field research are then used to analyze the residents’ perceptions of their own incarceration and potential for personal reformation in relation to the selected books. The study finds that the residents are skeptical of incarceration’s ability to make them change their ways and even that jail can make them be better criminals. The residents are, however, motivated to change by their relationships, a theme they encountered in the books. The paper ends by framing the findings with a discussion of mass incarceration, suggesting that the myth of reformative incarceration no longer functions as an effective narrative to inspire hope and personal change.


American Literature, Education, Language Arts, Literature, Social Research, Criminology, Incarceration, Street Lit, Jail, Prison, Literature, Incarcerated Juveniles, Mass Incarceration, Reformative Incarceration, Urban Fiction, Intersectionality, Street Literature, Third Space, Third Space Theory, Prison Literature, Prison Studies

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2018, author