College for Convicts in New Jersey


 The New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium (NJ-STEP) is revolutionizing how inmates will integrate back into society after their release.  College-level classes, now offered to prisoners during their incarceration, are expected to offer “an invaluable boost to incarcerated students, help reduce the rates of recidivism and, cut public spending,” according to

“First launched in 2012, the program is being expanded through a $4 million in grants Rutgers received from The Fort Foundation and The Sunshine Lady Foundation.”  The program has now expanded to seven correctional facilities across the state.  At the Albert C. Wagner Correctional Facility in Bordentown, NJ, a select group of young inmates are taking classes in mostly every subject- from medieval history to sculpture.  Once released, inmates are  able to redeem their credits at “Mercer County Community College, Rutgers University and several other state institutions.”

Bridget Clerkin, for The Times, reported earlier this week that results of the program have been “positively extraordinary”.  Recent research done by the Rand Corporation indicates that “inmates who participate in correctional education programs are 43 percent less likely to go back to prison. And employment after release is 13 percent higher among prisoners who participated in either academic or vocational education programs.”

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Businesses, Members of Congress Not Happy with UNICOR

By Derek Gilna

When a powerful U.S. Senator takes interest in an issue, even a bureaucratic government agency like the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) pays attention.

Kurt Wilson, an executive with American Apparel, Inc., an Alabama company that makes military uniforms, and Michael Marsh of Kentucky-based Ashland Sales and Service Co., found that out after they learned that UNICOR, which runs prison industry programs for the BOP, was considering bidding on contracts for business that their companies already had. A public statement from U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, led UNICOR to change its mind.

Like many other initiatives of the federal government, UNICOR, formally known as Federal Prison Industries, Inc., started off as well-intentioned. Prisoners earning from $.23 to $1.15 an hour are trained to work in factories supervised by BOP staff, where in theory they learn job skills that will help them find employment following their release. However, UNICOR has become not only a job training program but a manufacturing behemoth that employs some 12,300 prisoners and made approximately $606 million in gross revenue in fiscal year 2012 – yet still reported a net loss of $28 million. [See: PLN, Nov. 2013, p.52].

With that kind of size, purchasing power and cheap prisoner labor, it is almost impossible for small businesses to compete. Indeed, several companies have lost federal contracts due to competition from UNICOR, resulting in job losses among freeworld workers. [See: PLN, Feb. 2013, p.42]. This has made some business owners nervous – and angry.

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Drug Policy Alliance Calls for Case Submissions

Drug Policy Alliance Calls for Case Submissions By Drug Policy Alliance Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs, is looking for cases that might be eligible for executive clemency in New York State.  If you know of any cases, please contact Anthony Papa at tpapa(at) or 212-613-8037 or

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