Jail and prison tours have become an important educational tool in many criminal justice programs. This study uses an inductive approach to explore student perceptions of the physical and social environment of jails and prisons following tours of correctional facilities. The study draws from Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) which supports the focus on student reflections following experiential learning activities. Eighty essays were analyzed. Three broad themes emerged: the physical environment and social atmosphere of the correctional facilities, incarcerated people and their activities, and student realizations about correctional facilities. The study’s findings suggest that correctional tours provide opportunities for students to realize that many of the beliefs held about jails, prisons, and incarcerated individuals prior to exposure to the correctional environment were false. Considering the need in society for defying the stigma attached to offenders, correctional tours stand out as relevant – and essential – academic tools.
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