Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Education for Social Justice

Dissertation Committee

Dr. Reyes L. Quezada, EdD, Chair Dr. Suzanne Stolz, EdD, Member


Cajitas, Chicana feminism, community college, disability injustice, formerly incarcerated women, healing, incarceration, LatCrit, liberation, pláticas, Rising Scholars, self-empowerment, social justice, testimonios, trauma, and women of color


There is a growing rate of women of color in the U.S. prison system—their intersectional identities are hypercriminalized surrounding the nexus of oppressive barriers they experience (Annamma, 2017). The lack of awareness, understanding, and advocacy for carceral-impacted women of color in higher education has engendered an erasure. This qualitative research study explored and elevated the lived experiences and intersectional identities of formerly incarcerated women of color in postsecondary education. Through the lens of Latino critical race theory (LatCrit) and Chicana feminism, four methods of data collection took place—surveys, cajitas, testimonios, and reflective journaling. Formerly incarcerated women of color experienced the following barriers to and in college: (a) unhealed trauma, (b) chemical dependency, (c) lack of family support, (d) incarceration, (e) poverty, and (f) disability injustice. In contrast, the elevating opportunities they experienced in college included: (a) support from family, (b) Rising Scholars program, and (c) campus resources. Specifically, the praxis in the Rising Scholars program provided participants a sense of belonging that led them toward healing and self-empowerment to pursue their postsecondary education and life goals. Recommendations from this research provide guidance of praxis for the higher education system to eradicate oppressive barriers for formerly incarcerated women of color.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access



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