The Justice-in-Education Initiative is a collaboration between The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities and the Center for Justice at Columbia University, along with the Media and Idea Lab of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Partnerships with community organizations and educational institutions are essential to this endeavor and sustain our goal to increase access to higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women.
The Center for Justice, Columbia University
The Center for Justice at Columbia University is committed to reducing the nation’s reliance on incarceration and advancing alternative approaches to safety and justice through education, research and policy. Its mission is to help transform a criminal justice system from one that is driven by punishment and retribution to one that is centered on prevention and healing. The Center is interdisciplinary and built around community collaboration. It works in partnership with schools, departments, centers and institutes across Columbia, other universities, government agencies, community organizations, advocates and those directly affected by the criminal justice system.
The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University
The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities provides the intellectual and physical space for interdisciplinary discussions among members of the Columbia community and the New York City public. It brings together faculty and students from across the university—from the humanities, social and natural sciences, law, medicine, journalism, and the arts—to share thinking, debate ideas, and collectively consider methodological, conceptual, and ethical issues of common interest and concern. It sponsors public lectures, readings, conferences, and performances, fosters scholarly and artistic collaborations, and offers meeting spaces for its various affiliated members. Its Public Humanities programs serve people in neighboring communities who have limited access to, or who might uniquely benefit from, focused humanities programming—including incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, veterans, and those who are economically disadvantaged.
Education and hope are vital to rehabilitation. That’s why Marymount Manhattan College offers college-prep and degree programs to the women incarcerated at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison.
The Bedford Hills College Program (BHCP) offers courses leading to an Associates of Arts degree in Social Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. Marymount Manhattan College is the sole degree-granting institution of the BHCP, which also includes college-prep courses in writing and math.
The College provides textbooks and school supplies, and the College Learning Center has a networked computer lab, a library, and an area for students to meet with professors and tutors.
We consider Bedford students a part of the MMC student community, and maintain the same general education and major requirements. Approximately 14–16 courses of all levels are offered each semester. Students typically take 2-3 courses per semester.
Affiliate Universities:Bank Street College, Barnard College,Columbia University, Manhattan College, Manhattanville College, Pace University, Sarah Lawrence College,SUNY Purchase, Union Theological Seminary
The Center's Media and Idea Lab (MIL) consists of a series of courses and programs that employ media, particularly visual media, as a mode of inquiry. Key in this effort is the development of a "lab" environment in which students, faculty, and visitors can jointly participate in trying out ideas and creating knowledge communities through media. Students can also develop different types of projects, including curatorial, video, and web.
Jefferson Community College (JCC) is among those organizations that is receiving funding, over $665,175 for five years. With CJII funds, JCC will expand programming at the Cape Vincent Correctional Facility and offer courses at the Gouverneur and Watertown Correctional facilities. Incarcerated students will take Liberal Arts core courses in Humanities, Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, and be guided to take courses that fit their specific career and educational goals. The College is committed to developing a re-entry support structure that includes individualized education and career planning and extensive referral services. The College intends to partners with community agencies to support the successful transition of students.
Attica inmates are once again able to receive a college education from Genesee Community College, although this time it’s through a privately funded grant. History and English classes are being taught to Attica Correctional Facility inmates who are scheduled to be released in the near future. Instructor of English Michael Gosselin, who teaches composition there, said that the inmates had to apply.“Whatever they do, it is like applying for Yale. It’s the best of the best,” he said. Derek Maxfield, instructor of History at GCC, also agreed the process was tough. “They must of course be college ready. They must also have a clean behavior record at the prison,” he said. “They pay for all of their supplies too.” This isn’t the first time inmates have had the opportunity to learn while serving time in prison. The program, championed by GCC President Dr. Stuart Steiner, had been previously federally funded.
Students in “Life/Sentences” will have class in a medium security state prison 50 miles from campus, alongside incarcerated classmates in a setting modeled on the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program begun at Temple University. All students will be interviewed by the professor before enrolled into the course.
A February 2008 New York Times story reported on America’s “Incarceration Crisis”: 1 in every 99.1 U.S. adults was behind bars, 1.6 million in prison (up by 25000 from 2007) and another 723,000 in local jails, the highest rate of incarceration for any nation in modern history. Yet, despite the scope of the issue, most of us know very little about prison life. Prison walls are meant to keep inmates in, of course, but they also hold the rest of us out. Closer to home, prisons dot our local North Country landscape like blind spots, says Simone-Weil Davis, so that our internalized maps of home are “skewed, pitted with lacunae.” And these blind spots impoverish us and impede social change. Students in “Life/Sentences” will interrogate this cultural ignorance experiencing prison life firsthand at Riverview Correctional Facility, discuss issues surrounding contemporary prisons with incarcerated classmates, and via first-person narratives about prison life. (CBL) This course fulfills the FYP general education requirement.
The New York University Prison Education Program (NYU PEP) is a college program that offers credit-bearing courses and educational programming leading to an Associate of Arts Degree from New York University in Liberal Studies to men incarcerated at Wallkill Correctional Facility, located in Ulster County, New York.
All of our courses are taught in person and in classrooms that are equipped with desks and audiovisual technology. By offering transferrable credits and resources for developing critical skills and relationships, we are committed to supporting the educational and professional goals both for our students in prison and upon their release.
Since 1982 New York Theological Seminary has been one of the most unusual programs in theological education in the nation. Each year up to fifteen students who are currently incarcerated in New York State enroll in the Seminary’s accredited Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree offered inside the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York.
Candidates for the program must apply to NYTS through a regular application process. Those who are accepted are transferred to Sing Sing ( if they are not already housed there), where they enroll in a one-year, 36-credit graduate degree course of study. Candidates must demonstrate promise for leadership and an active faith commitment, hold an accredited undergraduate degree, and meet all of the Seminary’s other standards for admission. Many elect to move from medium- or even minimum-security prisons to the maximum-security environment of Sing Sing in order to attend the program.
Once enrolled, candidates attend classes five days a week. The MPS curriculum provides foundational study in the various disciplines of theological education: Old and New Testament, foundations of ministry, church history, theology, ethics, pastoral care and counseling, religious education, and program design and administration. Candidates for the program are expected to be a part of a community of learning that is committed to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual dimensions of ministry and service. They must forego regular weekday visits during the year they are in the program in order to meet the attendance requirements for classes. Instruction in classes is provided by members of the Seminary’s core and adjunct faculty. Courses are designed to be relevant to the prison environment, with a strong emphasis on spiritual integration, community accountability, and service to others. Candidates for the degree are also required to work in field education within Sing Sing under the supervision of the NYTS Program Director, Dr. Edward L. Hunt. They serve as peer counselors, chaplain’s assistants, or tutors in one of the educational programs offered within the facility. Candidates must have a 3.0 GPA to be in good standing and graduate. A special graduation service is held inside Sing Sing each year on the second Wednesday of June at 6 in the evening, with members of the NYTS board of trustees, faculty and administration, and candidates’ family members and other guests in attendance.
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. recently announced that Medaille College is one of seven state colleges or universities to receive grant money to offer courses to offenders in state correctional facilities. Faculty from Medaille will instruct offenders at Albion Correctional Facility. Those who participate in the College-in-Prison Reentry Program are eligible to receive associate degrees in liberal studies from Medaille.
Education in correctional facilities is crucial to preparing that person for a successful reentry into the community, reduce the rate of recidivism, and improve public safety. A study conducted by the Rand Corporation in 2013 found that individuals who participate in correctional facility education programs are 43 percent less likely to recidivate and return to correctional facilities, and 13 percent more likely to obtain employment after their release.
In April 2014, a panel of educators convened at Bennington to exchange ideas and practical advice around the topic of what liberal arts colleges can contribute to higher education in prisons, and what that contribution can mean for both the incarcerated and for the participating colleges. This convening led to the creation of the Prison Education Initiative (PEI) at Bennington College, which launched in fall 2015 at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York.
This program responds to the urgent need for incarceration reform in this country. The 1994 Crime Bill withdrew all financial support for incarcerated students, yet the benefits of such education are clear: higher education in prison reduces the likelihood of recidivism and improves the ability of those released to find employment. Every dollar spent on adult college education programs saves the taxpayer between $4 and $5. Beyond recidivism, PEI is investing in additional metrics to better understand the broad impact of college education on prison communities.
Providing University-Level Education to Ease Prisoner Reentry and Enhance Success
In 2011, John Jay College of Criminal Justice President Jeremy Travis posed the following question: “If over 700,000 people are leaving our prisons, how should the nation’s educational institutions be organized to help them make a successful transition to free society?” The result of his query is the Prison-to-College Pipeline (P2CP), an innovative educational program founded by John Jay English professor Baz Dreisinger. P2CP is administered by the Prisoner Reentry Institute in partnership with Hostos Community College and provides prisoners with access to public university-level education, mentorship, and community support to increase their chances of timely graduation and employment upon release.
Research has already demonstrated that prisoners who engage in higher education while incarcerated have lower return-to-custody rates and higher levels of employment and wages upon release. It’s an investment that results in cost savings through long term crime prevention. P2CP provides prisoners with college-level work in the three to five years prior to their release, which can be pivotal in setting a positive course for reentry, making it more likely that someone will pursue educational opportunities when released and, ultimately, succeed in college and a career.
P2CP represents a dynamic partnership between two major public institutions: the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and CUNY, a public university system with a rich history of providing quality education to typically underserved communities. Since 2011, P2CP has been delivering classes at the Otisville Correctional Facility, a medium security federal men’s institution approximately two hours from New York City.
The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) creates the opportunity for incarcerated men and women to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences. The academic standards and workload are rigorous, based on an unusual mix of attention to developmental skills and ambitious college study. The rate of post-release employment among the program’s participants is high and recidivism is stunningly low. By challenging incarcerated men and women with a liberal education, BPI works to redefine the relationship between educational opportunity and criminal justice.
The Cornell Prison Education Program provides a liberal arts curriculum leading to an Associate of Arts degree for men incarcerated at the Auburn and Cayuga Correctional Facilities. Cornell faculty and doctoral students serve as instructors for all courses, and a community college accredits the degree conferred upon eligible prisoners. The program offers nearly a dozen courses each semester in economics, constitutional law and individual rights, creative writing, genetics, medical anthropology, international human rights, writing, math, and Asian meditation.