It’s not all that often we get the chance to post a strictly “feel good” article on here, so when one comes along I’m going to jump on it. This past week Harvard University’s renowned debating team fell to a surprising opponent: prisoners from the Bard prison initiative! The team was comprised of members of The
This past Saturday, 53 inmates at Eastern Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York, were awarded college diplomas as part of the Bard Prison Initiative, a program that enables convicted felons to take courses and earn degrees while incarcerated. Among the graduates were newly minted experts in advanced math, literature, and social studies
By The Daily Freeman Bard College’s Max Kenner, the executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), received a 2014 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Education. The award recognizes 10 of the year’s most amazing achievements and the innovators behind them in nine different categories. Kenner created the initiative as an undergraduate at Bard in
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has sparked controversy after proposing to fund a college program for state prisoners that has demonstrated success at reducing recidivism.
New York state prisons house around 55,000 prisoners. Recidivism is a major problem. Around 40 percent of prisoners who are released end up back inside prison walls. With one year’s incarceration costing about $60,000 per year in New York state prisons, that’s a huge drain on state resources.
In an attempt to address this problem, Attica prison has been running a college program in association with Bard College since 2001, with 275 inmates currently enrolled. Inmates can take individual classes or a full degree program, and the programs are conducted with the same thoroughness as those on campus.
The success of the Bard Prison Initiative speaks for itself. To date, over 500 inmates have taken classes, and 250 have graduated with degrees. These successes include many who could never have expected to achieve academic success in their home environment. Ex-students of the program have gone on to successful jobs and careers, and even to attend graduate schools, including Columbia University and Yale.
Perhaps more impressively, the rate of re-incarceration for those who have taken classes has fallen ten-fold to just 4 percent, whilst for those who graduated with degrees that rate falls even further to 2.5 percent
Max Kenner / Photo courtesy bpi.bard.edu By Max Kenner Dear PrisonEducation.com Readers, Twelve and a half years ago, I spent the summer driving across New York State, from prison to prison, looking for some good news and partners to help establish Bard Prison Initiative. Those were the bad old days. Just a few years before,