Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Kyle P. Vealey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eleanor Shevlin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ashley Patriarca, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrew Sargent, Ph.D.


This thesis project aims to better understand the way professional writing is taught through formalized programs in the context of a correctional facility—particularly to a diverse audience of professionals who may or may not have received post-secondary education prior to entering the workforce. Three research questions drive this project: How is professional writing taught in correctional facilities? How does this writing instruction play a role in the larger correctional system, particularly in the ways the professional writing program functions as a vehicle for understanding incident reports as a genre? And how can criminal justice writing instruction be improved? Participants were recruited from an incoming class of new training officers at a county prison. I conducted an artifact/document analysis of the prison’s in-house writing instruction materials including the presentation, and sample report forms. Additionally, I observed the report-writing training program and conducted semi-structured interviews with consenting officers. I employed a grounded theory approach to data analysis. My initial review of the data focused on an open-coding pass through to look for developing patterns, and then I utilized those patterns to begin grouping data into larger themes. The results of the data collection revealed an emphasis on sentence level concerns, documents as legal artifacts, and variations in instruction methods dependent upon the training officer. I expand on these initial observations to discuss the way these trends impact the larger context of the ways professional writing programs functions as a vehicle for understanding incident reports as a genre. Writing instruction in the context of a correctional facility is an understudied field, yet the documents officers create are invaluable in the prison system as they regulate and record inmate care and officer and inmate behaviors. Thus, further research is necessary to continue to fill the gap that this thesis project has uncovered.